Created on Thursday, 02 October 2008 09:16
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 October 2008 09:16
By Wendy Fuller
To the people of Warren, Vermont.
As I sit writing here in Ireland, I am deeply disturbed by word of recent behavior in the Warren community.
Amidst the continuing economic downturn and considerable stresses which are being experienced throughout the country, and indeed the world, the tax bills have gone out as they do every year. This has progressively wrought misplaced bad sentiment and increasingly uncivil behavior from Warren's citizens.
I am more deeply disappointed by this than I can say. Living in Europe has proven difficult on many accounts, not least of which deriving from the ill-favor harbored by many in respect to the foreign policies and various actions of the United States. Thus, I have taken refuge in, and indeed clung to, the notion that I came from a bastion of creativity, civility, open-mindedness, civic engagement and educational promotion diametrically opposed to the image in which Americans are frequently painted abroad. I have believed this. It has comforted me. I have been proud of it. And now I hear that I seem to have been fooling myself. This alone has been deeply distressing, but to further compound my dismay the details about the behavior of some of Warren's citizens have truly crushed me.
While I am most compassionate regarding the considerable strains which many are facing now within the current financial and socio-economic climate, I had believed that I came from a place where balanced discussion and creative discourse were extolled, not screaming over a telephone line or being intimidating to others in public offices, let alone other public places. The word "bully" comes to mind, a term sadly familiar to me as it is regularly bandied about in description of my home nation. "I don't come from a place like that! Not us!" I have cried. Have I been made a liar?
During difficult times, is it not right and good and just to come together as a community? To seek answers and edification via the appropriate channels? To inform oneself before action? Perhaps I have been mistaken, but is that not the sentiment which is near ubiquitously present in so many of the letters, columns, articles and the very premise of this paper? Have I been wrong all this time? Have I taken with me across the water a false sense of where and what it is that I come from? This news has shaken my foundations. I fear most deeply that I might have built my pride in my origins upon sand instead of the rock that I took it for.
The coming time ahead is forecasted by economists to be "difficult" but they offer few solutions. Perhaps an argument which is so often heard among the social science community, that we should stop asking economists and start asking sociologists what to do is appropriate here. In times such as these a sociologist would suggest cooperative networking. A sociologist would suggest moving towards public education about current federal and state tax policies and encourage informing oneself about proper channels, officials and conditions before attempts at ameliorative action. A sociologist would suggest discussion, calm and balanced proactive resolution, a tighter knitting of the community so as to provide support for those in need, resources and information from those who have it and a progressive and positive discursive civic environment so as to best work towards an amenable solution for all.
I thought that I had come from a place which harbored more or less such an ethos; it was one of the things that inspired me to become a sociologist myself. From what I have been hearing I fear that I have been most unfortunately mistaken. My disappointment is immense and what is worse, my sorrow is cavernous. I hope most fervently that I have not been putting so much stock into an empty commodity. That I have not bankrupted myself on a civility and citizenship I had believed was real. I ask you, citizens of Warren, and I admittedly ask selfishly, do not give way under this recession and the pressures it brings. Do not abandon your civility and your sense. Be the town that I believe you are. Please don't take that away from me so far from home.
Wendy Fuller is a Warren native.