Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the Place Where I Make No Mistakes

There are six phases to most human interaction, be it between people in a family or residents of a city. Those phases are, in order: Enthusiasm, Disillusionment, Fear, Search for the Guilty, Punishment of the Innocent and Rewards and Honors for the Non-Participants. I'm not sure you'd call it a Natural Law or a Force of Nature-I suspect like a lot of the fables, failings and foibles of the human race, it's just evolved over a long period of time and now it is what it is.

I've lived in Norwich, Connecticut for close to two decades (for some, I know it feels a lot longer and your objections are noted) and watched as the Wauregan Hotel, Dodd Stadium, the Mercantile Exchange and the Intermodal Transportation Center just to name a quartet of 'game changers' were, each in their own way, the magic potion, the miracle ingredient, the silver bullet that would undo decades of decay and indifference and return life and people to downtown Norwich.

And every one of those projects has had, at some point, that six step cycle with special emphasis, it seems to me, on Search for the Guilty. We're just not able to move past setbacks or course corrections unless and until we have someone to blame. And we all know who we mean even if we never say anyone's name. Most people refer to the culprit as 'them' which is deliciously duplicitous because every 'them' is also an 'us' to somebody else, somewhere else.

The trouble with our Six Step Solution is, of course, it solves nothing. We get stuck on stupid and stay there. Anytime we try to revisit a situation and explore an alternative resolution, one of us is always reminded of a time back in the day when someone else had that very idea and 'they' (those mysterious sinister forces again) made sure 'we' couldn't make things right. It would almost be funny if it weren't not only true but in danger of happening again.

The first Tuesday of November, eight weeks and one day ago, registered voters in Norwich approved economic development bond packages to assist our public utilities and to provide a fund to partnership with downtown property owners and entrepreneurs.

I think we surprised ourselves when we voted 'yes' on the downtown proposal because almost since the day after the vote there have been a lot of what sounds like Step Three, Panic, on the way to Step Four, Search for the Guilty as a surprising number of folks who are usually pretty level-headed have gotten a bit wobbly about working together to make downtown a success.

Maybe it's human nature and maybe some of the caution is a good idea-that whole measure twice and cut once frame of mind, but I'd hate to have us fear failing so much we're really unwilling to try. Norwich has over 350 years of history and none of it happened by accident as on innumerable occasions in those years, someone somewhere stopped when others ran, and stood while others cowered and were the new starting point for whatever was to happen next.

We didn't always get it right the first time, either, you know, but we learned from our mistakes and we stopped worrying about who was to bless and who was to blame and started over again and kept starting over again until we got it right. It doesn't make any difference how you got here-it's where you go now that you're here, that's important. And where are you? Next to me. And I'm in the place where I have what it takes. And you do, too.
-bill kenny

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