by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 2/2014
While I am not a Foxboro townie, I have lived here 23 years. And like those lifelong residents who will tell you that Foxboro has changed so much that since they were a child, I have observed that Foxboro has changed a lot in the two decades I have lived here.
My observation has been the Foxboro is a town of paradox. Like the Bruce Springsteen song, we do indeed “take care of our own”, not just through community service and fraternal organizations, not just through the discretionary fund, not just through thousands of small acts of kindness, but in every way that matters.
Conversely, we seem to be a town that loves a good fight, and Foxboro seems to be a place where the next good battle is right around the corner. In recent years, we have seen a battle wage over a dog park. We had seen this town literally ripped apart — neighbor against neighbor — as the casino debate raged for well over a year.
And then we saw kindness — we saw over 150 people come out in support for the Lawton family farm over the raw milk saga. We saw a group of dedicated volunteers work quietly, behind the scenes, to help the Hazeldine family. Throughout the holiday season of 2013 we saw acts of incredible kindness and generosity. And we when lose one of our own, we come out in droves to remember them, and then we continue to honor their legacy through acts of kindheartedness and charity.
We take care of our own.
But we are often a house divided.
Now, I am not proposing we all get along. Peace on earth is a lovely concept, but put any two people together, and at some point you will have a disagreement, an argument, a war of words. We should always work toward peace, and work toward peaceful solutions to our disagreements.
What I’ve noticed in the last years is that something of a “mean spirit” has manifested in this town. It seems to me that much like politics on a national level, the people that we elect for local offices immediately become targets the moment they swear the oath.
On a local and national level, people enter politics for a variety of reasons, ranging from a genuine heartfelt desire to just help their community/city/state/nation, all the way to Machiavellian agendas of world dominance. I think our current officials all fall much closer to “genuine heartfelt desire to just help their community” side of the scale. I respect each member of the board. I don’t always like what they do and say, but I respect them.
I may be naive, but I sincerely believe the elected officials in this town, past and present, are doing their best. These unpaid volunteers, most of whom ran their campaign on an idea to make a change or a difference, find themselves in the cross hairs of every person with an ax to grind.
I’ve said this repeatedly: every person who runs for office has my respect. It is something that I would never do. I simply would not open myself up to the stress, the anger of the public, and assume responsibility for every problem in the town.
Because that’s what happens, isn’t it friends? We elect someone and then expect them to solve every problem. When they falter, when they unknowingly do something wrong, or make a decision we don’t agree with, we vilify them, and we storm town hall with pitchforks and torches.
Well, some of YOU do. I keep the pitchfork and torches in storage in case of zombie attacks. But I digress.
Like every town, we have had great elected officials, and people whose legacy is, shall we say, less than great. But at least they had the courage to run for office and serve this town.
Regarding our current board of selectman, I believe each person has integrity and acts with the good of Foxboro in mind. Yes, they make mistakes, and it is absolutely imperative that the citizenry of Foxboro continue to be diligent with their elected officials, current and future.
Your responsibility as a voter does not end at the ballot box. It is absolutely up to you to continue to observe your elected officials, to write your letters to the editor, to attend town meetings, and most importantly be informed. It’s extremely important that people stay involved, that they do not become jaded or cynical, after all, the only way to affect change is to be part of the solution.
Folks, we need a compromise here. Because what we have at the moment seems to be constant bickering, and the end result is that not much gets accomplished because we’re too busy arguing.
So what am I trying to say here? I’m trying to say that elected officials do not have all the answers, nor should we expect them to. Yes, we must hold them to a higher standard and we as a citizenry must ensure they follow the laws and procedures that protect and benefit us all. But we should also treat the office these people hold with a little more respect. You may not personally like selectmen so-and-so, but respect the office. You have the right and duty to make your opinion known; all I’m suggesting is perhaps it’s time for a little more respect — from both sides of the table.
There is far too much of an “us versus them” mentality, there has been for years, and frankly I’m tired of it. Nothing is going to get done, nothing is going to get accomplished, if the people do not stop treating elected officials like the enemy. And RESPECTFULLY, I would suggest our elected officials need to take a deep breath, slow down, and listen a little more carefully to what people are saying.
There’s an old saying that only a fool fights in a burning house. Foxboro is not burning, but the embers are being stirred, and the fiery flare-ups, such as the casino, such as the dog park, are very destructive, and take years to heal.
So I guess what I’m saying is this, maybe we should ALL take a breath, reassess the situations and matters that affect us all, and try a little better to maintain cooler heads. There will always be disagreement, that’s human nature, and it’s actually healthy. A good debate, a good discussion, weighing the pros and cons in a civilized manner benefits everyone.
I respect all five members of the board of selectmen and our elected officials. And I respect everyone reading this. What I don’t respect is sniping, uninformed people screaming and yelling, and either side – intentionally or not — ignoring the rules and procedures.
We are all human, we will all make mistakes, we will all say things we regretted saying. A welcome change in this community would be if everyone, elected officials and regular citizens, would ALWAYS keep in mind that ultimately we all want the same thing: a better Foxboro. We can reach this goal civilly, and without going to war.
Let’s all slow down for a moment, catch our breaths, get our facts right, and then create an atmosphere where everyone who wishes to speak can be heard, and get back to the art of civilized conversation. We will all be better for it.
End of speech.