I am a local. That means I am from here. Where are you from?

Never heard of it.

I was born and raised here. Not born technically, but raised. Well, not raised technically, but I’ve definitely been here longer than you have and I can tell you’re not a local like me. You’re a tourist.

How can I tell? Well, for one, you’re using Google Maps on your phone. Us locals don’t need to use that to get around. The lay of the land is imprinted on the back of our minds, as the love we have for it is imprinted on our souls. You wouldn’t know anything about that because you’re not a local like me. You don’t love this place the way I do.

Which reminds me, did I tell you yet how much I hate this place now? It used to be so much better, but now it’s just changed beyond all recognition. You’ll never understand what it was like before you were here because you weren’t here to be here. I was here and it was different, and it was definitely better. It definitely wasn’t worse. No, it’s only worse now, while you’re here. It’ll probably get better again when you leave.

What do you want from us anyway? You want to come in and just change everything? It was just fine how it was. And what about the people who are already here? Do you care about us?

As the song says, “This land is my land, this land is (not) your land.” You want to come over here and move in and just rewrite our history? This was our place, our home, our way of life, for millennia. Not millennia, but centuries. Okay, decades. Years. A few years. The point is it’s ours and it’s not yours. Sure, it used to be someone else’s, and probably someone else’s before them, but now it’s mine, so I’m going to plant my flag and dig in. Let me put it bluntly: “CHANGE AND NEW THINGS SCARE ME.”

Wait, no, that’s not what I wanted to say. Let see…

I guess I believe people are defined by the differences that separate them, no matter how minute these differences are, because we inevitably create our sense of self in reference to others. If I cannot distinguish myself from everything else, then how could I claim to even exist? How would my brain know where I end and the other begins? Not to mention finding which group I belong to — who my people are — so I can survive. When I lash my identity onto a geography, race, religion, or some other artificial creation of the mind, I’m able to define who the other is — in this case, you — and through that frame of reference bring myself into being. The alternative is accepting that we are all members of the same tribe, homo sapiens, who over thousands of years, while propagating the planet to the brink of extinction, have created millions of evermore specific divisions that break us into ever-shrinking sects based on ever-tightening rules, in order to hide us from the truth that we are in fact all rudderless, meaningless, purposeless drops of biologically complex water floating in a vast cosmological silence.

So let me reiterate: I am a local. Where are you from?