As a nation and as a community, we witness daily the lack of spirited, educated, kind public discourse though, of course, this doesn’t happen all the time, in every circumstance, fortunately. It sometimes seems that if you have an opinion and are courageous enough to voice it, you are instantly negatively labeled. That’s one reason why people are afraid to speak up. You’re a “racist” for maybe wanting to discuss Black Lives Matter, a “Trumpkin” if you support Donald Trump, a “xenophobe” for desiring a discussion on immigration or terrorism, an “anti-Semite” for perhaps not wanting an eruv, or for wanting a distinct separation of church and state, an “elitist” for questioning the density of affordable housing.
I am not perfect. I admit it. No one is. I understand that. Those of us calling for an elected board for the Westhampton Free Library have tried to stick to issues. But when a taxpayer reasonably asks valid questions at a monthly public Library board meeting during the Public Expression period, and she is asked why she always “attacks” the board, this is further display of a recurring, systemic problem. So, a Letter may go the The Press Editor, and I will be an “attacker.” This is what those with absolute power do. They weave a marginalizing, trivializing narrative to deflect conversation from the issues.
In the newspapers alone, all in print, by unelected trustees, we taxpayers have been called “rancorous,” “radicals,” “disgruntled”; my claims of wrongful termination were called “bullshit” and a “personal vendetta,” though I outright won a Department of Labor hearing where the judge stated that the reasons for my termination were “untenable,” and the Library settled my NLRB case for $25,000, a combination of front and back pay, which was my original number and I wouldn’t budge (two other employees settled their cases as well, one for a very substantial sum, and a union was overwhelmingly voted in, 31-3).
We also hear in our own community adjectives that originated from those that are being questioned. We are called “crazy,” “deranged,” and “dangerous.” They feed the rumor mill with nasty words attacking the person, instead of sticking to issues. Then more people are afraid to voice their opinions because they might be labeled as well. It’s a tried and true tactic, used against reformists, throughout history.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.