Telling Stories, Telling Truths and Avoiding Politics

It isn’t easy, sometimes, to come up with an idea for a blog post. There are times when the idea hits right away, months in advance, but other times, I struggle. But then, out of the blue, I remember the bravery of my friends in green, the good folks at the National Park Service, and I feel heartened. I usually feel good after I think about the NPS, but now, more than ever before in my lifetime, I feel excited about the goodness that comes from these folks!

The atmosphere surrounding the U.S. political scene is about as heated as it has been in 40+ years, and interpreters are on the front lines. For better or worse, we’re entrusted with truth, or at least we’re traditionally expected to tell the truth. Telling that truth has become a challenge as “alternative facts” are the new normal. Much worse, there is what looks to many to be an active campaign to stop the flow of science and truth. People feel their careers are on the line should they choose  to speak out. But some are choosing to speak out regardless.

Mind you, speaking out isn’t always the right approach for interpreters. Or, for that matter, anyone. If speaking out about something you find to be true, but your bosses don’t, you really must weigh the situation.

“Is my speaking out serving my personal beliefs or providing people who visit the location with important context to understand what’s happening?”

If it is just for your sake (even if you feel it is what is best for the world), keep your opinions out of the workplace. Speak out. Go to rallies. Send letters. Do what you feel to do, but do it on your own time.

But, if it impacts the story of your site, find ways to weave the story into your interpretive activities. Context matters. Content matters. Sensitivity to others matters.

Telling the story of bird migration certainly doesn’t require telling the story of today’s political actors. But it does require telling the story of climate change. The migration patterns are changing, and that’s just observable fact.

Telling the history of racism in the deep south doesn’t mean blasting current leaders about their political opinions, but it does provide opportunities to relate topical experiences to historical ones–not so much to showcase any current political evils, but to connect with our audience in a real and meaningful way. You know, like an interpreter should!

So far, I’ve been delighted by what the good folks at the National Park Service have been doing during their off-time. For good measure, there’s also a great “alt” NASA account and an “alt” EPA account. If you haven’t, be sure to check out these sites:

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