Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Citizen in a Republic

When I opened my newspaper a few days ago to read Mayor Hinchey would not seek a second term, I thought about Teddy Roosevelt and his "the man in the arena" observation (in an era before women were permitted to vote and hold elected office) and how true, especially here at the most immediate level of government, municipal, in the city of Norwich, those words actually are.

They apply not just to our current Mayor or to the three single-term Mayors, as is she about to be, who preceded her but to all alderpersons, members of the Board of Education and those friends and neighbors who give of their time and talents to serve on the dozens of agencies, boards, commissions and committees (past, present and future) to make where we live as good as we tell one another we are.

Like Roosevelt's critic, I tend to offer unsolicited insights and critiques to those doing their best in the mistaken belief I not only know everything but I know everything better. I should have realized by now offering your opinion in a dogmatic tone of voice doesn't make your observation a fact but I’m a slow learner. 

I can take solace as such that around here, I'm not alone. Anatole France was correct, 'if fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing' but I'm more concerned we never forget Daniel Patrick Moynihan's observation that 'everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.' 

In recent months that’s gotten confused. And when that happens, we all pay a price because we have to correct alternative facts and gossip with real truth and then begin again. In every communication model, both the sender and the receiver have responsibilities, often simultaneously. 

When I don't understand something you’re saying, I have to work harder (as do you) until we both succeed. For me to simply blame you solves nothing and fixes even less, leaving us broken, bent and beaten and very angry as to how we got here. But it’s hard to resist temptation, isn’t it? 

The more willing someone is to do a thankless job, the more of us you’ll find willing to stand around and watch them work, never offering a hand and carping when the outcome doesn’t suit us. Then, when it’s election time, “gee, there’s never anyone new to vote for.” If you’re trying to figure out what causes that problem, we do. Meanwhile, thank you, Mayor Hinchey.

Ignorance is when you don't know something; arrogance is when you're proud of your ignorance.
We need a whole lot less of both. That we needed it thirty years ago doesn't make it any less important that we start today.  We can make and be the difference in our city-not just because we know we can, but because we know we must. Elections are fast approaching. 

If you’ve decided to stop watching and start helping, this is when you should step up and speak out.
-bill kenny

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