My mother taught me not to have loyalty to institutions or systems. There was no specifiic one moment that she taught me that--no curriculum to advise me against institutions or systems. I don't recall her ever using those words or making such an assertion. But it was certainly there in the beliefs she shared.

Institutions and systems have the same flaws people do. Like people, they do intentional or unintentional harm; they have unexamined biases. Beyond that, institutions do not have a vested, emotional interest in you as a singular individual. Systems can't give and take. Ultimately, they can't or won't adapt easily.

None of that is groundbreaking thinking. But it's interesting personal context I never thought of. I don't have a sports team I always root for. I've never joined an alumnus or affiliate group. I guess I've had some brand loyalties over the years, but those have always ended badly. 

Now, as a middle-aged professional, it's my job to show institutions and systems where they are doing unintended harm, what their unexamined biases might be, what sort of adaptations are overdue. I find that my basic distrust of loyalty to specific institutions--rather than sympathy with their goals or valuing their role--is useful. 

A theme of all my work right now--professional, politcal and volunteer--is how the pandemic is laying bare all the failures of our systems; all the biases and harms built into our institutions. This is such an opportunity to fix things. I wish I had hope we would.

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