By Heather Bagnall
Delegate, District 33
I recently returned to the summer camp, which has been my home for the last two decades. This is always a time of transition from the excitement of spring to the end of the school year, extended hours of daylight, planning and preparing for vacations, trips to the pool and the beach. As an artist, I work in a field that embraces change; my art form changes with the seasons, a parallel to politics, which I did not anticipate but which made my run for office all the more reasonable.
Change is not an easy thing for most adults, yet our children, the ones we so often feel we must protect, are used to change; they are seasonal, their schedule, their schools, their friends and landscape change year after year, and they are constantly learning to accept and adapt.
Having written this column at the end of Pride month, I am reflecting on how this county has undergone so much change in such a brief amount of time, and I am reflecting on my small role in this moment. Change in itself is neither good nor bad, but how we cope and adapt to change is often what defines it. As a theater maker, I grew up in the LGBTQ community during the AIDS crisis, so I had a front-row seat as to why visibility was so essential as I watched friends, colleagues and mentors die a horrible death, often coupled with ostracism and trauma that resulted from their desire to simply live out of the shadows. I was a child and didn’t concern myself so much with the why and the how but instead focused on the who.
Over the past few months, we have had a reckoning in Anne Arundel County as we adjust to a more inclusive community, and there has been an abundance of fear-mongering and misinformation proliferated from people in positions of authority regarding our LGTBQ community, our immigrant community, our impoverished communities, our addiction community, our mentally ill community and our communities of color. It is why we need to not just look forward but continually reach back and make space for others, to call out bigotry in others and to understand our own biases.
Intersectionality is something that our young people navigate far better than many of us. It is something I wrestle with as a legislator and an educator to try to ensure that I understand the impact of every decision and lesson on a wide range of communities. I was struck last week as our community struggled with the senseless killing of a rising star and young man of color who was shot in his car on the eve of National Gun Violence Weekend and just as our county executive launched a gun violence taskforce. As this young man’s brother sought to honor him, announcing a balloon launch, the anonymity of social media reared up and he was attacked for his willingness to disregard the environmental impact. Even as you read this, some may think me insensitive as a green legislator, but what was lost in the moment was that this man was mourning the loss of his brother and that the message to him was clear, that a man of color was expendable. I know that was not the intention of the authors, but that is a narrative that stretches well back into our history.
Sometimes there is value in taking a breath, in reflecting in the silence and in carefully crafting our words, because intersectionality is work, but as we change to a more inclusive Anne Arundel County, the value of that reflection will become apparent. I understand my role as legislator is to consider the needs of a wide array of constituents and to never forget the people impacted on the other side of a bill and to be prepared to defend not only my vote but my line of thinking that brought me to that conclusion. If I have learned anything this session, it is that sometimes there is great value in returning to a problem with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
This summer, as I returned to camp set up, I added a word to our goal statement: kindness. As we transition into the summer, and have a bit of relaxation time for reflection, I ask that we all find a way to incorporation kindness into our world and try to make kindness the qualifier for change.