My husband, our tween son and I moved into a new house at the beginning of the year. We didn’t meet our neighbors before the pandemic hit; we still haven’t. After the horrible police shooting of Jacob Blake last week, our son made a beautiful Black Lives Matter poster and asked if he could display it on our lawn. We were proud to! A few days later, our neighbors seemed to respond with a Blue Lives Matter sign on their lawn. It hurts our hearts when we see it. Were we wrong to put up our son’s lawn sign? Can we talk to the neighbors about theirs?
The pity of Blue Lives Matter, as I’ve seen the slogan deployed, is that it springs from a zealous denial that Black lives matter. Even the parroting name makes it seem like a childish, schoolyard taunt.
But aren’t our hearts and minds big enough to acknowledge that many Black people suffer terrible injustice in this country because of their race, often at the hands of police, and, simultaneously, that law enforcement plays an important role in society? It’s not an either/or proposition.
Your son did well by channeling his distress at police violence into a productive project. And you were right to support him. (You may even introduce the subject of police reform.) But your neighbors are entitled to their opinions, too, however much they hurt your heart. That’s how free speech works.
Now, I get the awkwardness of dueling lawn signs among next-door strangers. So, go over and introduce yourselves (masked and distant). Be friendly. And leave the signs out of it. If a neighborly friendship develops, you may find a time to discuss this with them later.
Is It Safe to Say Goodbye?
My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago. Sadly, treatment failed, and she has now moved into a hospice facility. Her doctors expect she has a few months to live. My siblings visit every day, but I haven’t seen her in months. I live several hours away. My mom keeps calling and asking me to visit, but I’m really afraid of my family’s failure to take Covid prevention seriously. I want to be there for my mom, but I don’t want to get sick. Help!
I have strong feelings about how I would handle this in your place, but I am not you. (No one is!) Stop wasting your time consulting newspaper columnists and other nonmedical civilians. Call your mother’s doctor or the people who run the hospice. I’m pretty sure they can help you minimize the risks of visiting your dying mother — both to her and to you.
Losing a parent can be devastating and scary, not least because it brings our own mortality into focus. Try putting your feelings aside for as long as it takes to consult the experts and make a rational decision. You may regret waiting until events make it for you.
Hey, That’s My Daughter!
I was walking my dog past an apartment building. There was a puddle of dog pee on the front step. My dog sniffed it and moved on. On our way home, the doorman from the building came out to put bleach on the step. As we passed, he tossed bleach from the jug at my dog, saying she peed on the step, though I told him she hadn’t. Luckily, he missed. But who would be so cruel? I tried calling the building to report him, but no one answered because of the pandemic. What should I do?
An underappreciated fact: Doormen are front-line workers. When pet owners let their dogs pee on steps, doormen have to clean it up, often exposing themselves to people without masks who walk too close. This doesn’t excuse the doorman’s nasty behavior, but it may explain his stress and anger during a pandemic.
Go back to the building and tell the doorman politely that you know we’re all under pressure now, but your dog did not pee on his step, and even if she had, tossing cleaning fluid at an animal is inhumane. (Better to ask the owner to clean it up.) If he still won’t acknowledge his error, call the building again or your local animal control agency.
My younger sister and I will be going to the same school this year. We start in-person classes after Labor Day. The problem: She copies my style! I put a lot of thought into the way I dress, and it bugs me to see a copycat come down the stairs every morning. My mother won’t get involved. Will you?
Of all the ways I imagined a question about in-person learning during a pandemic would play out, none included copycat dressing. But I’m an older brother, so I get your frustration, Jilly.
Let me suggest another way to look at this. Your younger sister admires you and may not have as much confidence in her fashion sense. Why not style her for a week? Help her come up with her own look, and she may back off yours.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.