Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Leading up to last night's Democratic caucus in New Paltz, I read so many polemics that I had to look the word it up make sure it really meant what I thought it did.  It did.  These attacks were lobbed at candidates I support, candidates I don't support, candidates I don't give a hoot about either way, and anyone perceived as having an opinion about anything, which could be inferred by as small an action as clicking a "like" button on Facebook.

This kind of communication accomplishes nothing of real value, of course.  In a community of this size, the people attacked regularly run into their attackers at My Market or Health-Carrot-Nutrition, making for awkward avoidance schemes.  Even if your candidates of choice win in an election, the wounds fester and lead to vengeance candidates being launched against them.

I am irritated to the point of ranting about this sort of thing, which any thoughtful person knows is a sure sign that I am as guilty as any of those there idiots.  It's irritating mostly because the people launching the attacks are desperate to shunt others into, well, "the other."  Two years ago some guy from Gardiner decided, based on my party registration alone, that I am a tool of planet-destroying evil, and still has no clue that I am a dirt-worshiping environmentalist who cares more about the environment than the majority of the present New Paltz Town Council.  He had to make me into the "other" because recognizing that people are complex makes polemics, and politics, harder.

What I'm waiting for is to be labeled part of the "Jason West cult" because I have, twice now, ripped into village board members known and unknown for nasty attacks.  Anyone who has mentioned the man's name around me in the last two years would quickly be disabused of that notion, or would be if their attack-mode brains could process more options than "yes" and "no."

I'm not the only target, and really I'm one of the least targets, but I'm an expert on me, so I'm the best example I have.  Of course, I spend less time pondering the impact of my words on others, so right now I'm going to rattle off a few thoughts that are decidedly not attacks.

  • Tom Nyquist has busted his butt making the bird sanctuary a gem.  If you haven't visited, you should.
  • I met Steve Auerbach for the first time last night.  He is thoughtful, well-spoken, and polite.
  • Bill Mulcahy draws political cartoons better than anyone in New Paltz, and expresses his views brilliantly in that format.  The New Paltz Times should pay him to do so.
  • If ever there is a serious threat to the environment, Susan Zimet is the kind of person I want in the trenches, because when there are battles and enemies and someone else calling the shots, no one can compare.
  • Jason West's knowledge of history and law should be cherished for the treasure they are.
  • Hector Rodriguez is an excellent parliamentarian.
Maybe we make out our neighbors to be pure evil because we feel bad voting against them otherwise, but we're grown-ups, and we live together.  Lying and polarizing is a short-term solution that makes for long-term problems.  Gossip and whisper campaigns are just as bad.  We need to recognize that all of our neighbors add something good to our community, and we need to be willing to look those neighbors in the eye and acknowledge when we don't agree.  

On Facebook, in the letters column, we are willing to speak our minds, but then we pretend that these aren't real life, and that those opinions we share have no impact.  They do.  If we would not say something to a person directly, we should not be typing it in a private email, or a public posting, or saying it to other people while clustered in the corner of our favorite wine bar.

New Paltz is a microcosm of this great nation of ours.  Let's try to remember that our community is filled with good, and that writing polemics is the very core of evil.

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