It may come as a surprise to some who read words matter, but I write other things besides caustic op eds. It was somewhat humorous to have those who reacted negatively to my op ed in support of Ward Churchill calling me a “hack”, “elitist”, “ivory tower liberal”, and the best one of all--insinuating that the best place for “people like you”, was a solitary cell at Gitmo!
Actually, for the charge of “elitist”, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate class divisions, particularly along economic lines and privilege.
Growing up in a small Maine town, being fortunate enough to have working-class roots, taught me early on that community mattered. I grew up during a time when neighbors still cared about one another. Growing up on a street where stickball was played in the road and if a ball hit someone’s house, no one threatened a lawsuit. Cars didn’t come screaming past our houses at 40-50 mph (in a 25mph zone) and you didn’t have to dive for the ditch to save your hide while riding your bike along the back roads of town.
Our Main Street had Roberts’ Pharmacy and Kennebec Fruit, where we could visit the old-fashioned soda fountain, or buy penny candy. We had Chuck’s Superette and the Kitty Korner Store, where I used to pick up my papers every afternoon for my afternoon Journal paper route. This was back in the day when the Lewiston Sun Journal still had morning and afternoon editions of its paper. I remember signing up the most new subscriptions for a contest the paper was having and scoring tix to go to the old Boston Garden for a Celtics game.
Recently, I had the good fortune of being able to freelance a feature article and even taking a few pictures of some middle school students, as they gathered local historical artifacts and put them online. This was part of a project of the Maine Historical Society, which has created Maine Memory Network, a website that gives technological access to historical groups all over the state, allowing anyone with an internet connection access to local history.
A middle school teacher who cares about actually teaching and is passionate about the rich historical and cultural heritage of the town where he teaches, had taken a group of gifted and talented seventh and eighth graders and gotten them excited about local history.
The Lisbon Historical Society in Lisbon Falls, the town where I grew up, is now housed in the former elementary school where I first attended kindergarten through third grade. Some forward-thinking members of the town have revived the abandoned structure and turned it into a community center that houses the historical society, local food bank and a Head Start program. While I was there, a former schoolmate who’s overseeing the center told me that some in the town are opposed to this concept. Apparently, they think the investment the town is making in providing community space to their citizens isn’t giving them a return their comfortable with. I guess they think that somehow, they’ll turn it into a money-making venture, charging the citizens of the town a fee for use. Personally, I think that’s the wrong direction for the town to be taking, so I may write an article on that at some point in the next month or two.
If there is one thing that I’m passionate about and informs much of what I write, is the belief that we are all in this life together—if we can just find some way to reach consensus, or find common ground, we could do so much more. Community has a way of building those bridges, bridges that ideology often destroys.