Wow, what a lot of pain there is around our town. Reading my neighbor, Aaron Gouveia’s recent post in this space about our mutual neighbor, Dashe Videira, I couldn’t help but feeling like something was getting lost in translation. It is a fact (and perhaps symbolically rich) that our homes are on opposite sides of the Videira residence.
I was surprised several days ago when Aaron mined his private conversations and texts with Dashe to publicly excoriate her on Facebook – and now the campaign has moved to Franklin Matters. Free speech, and all that, it still seemed to be in poor taste and stingingly calculated to burn whatever social bridges remain on our street. And just when I was hoping we could heal.
My sadness in these events brought to mind the Christmas carol whose lyrics were written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Hearing the beautiful pealing of church bells at Christmas even as the Civil War raged across the land, threw him into despondency. You don’t have to be Christian or celebrate Christmas to imagine the painful disconnect a man like Longfellow experienced in that moment.
And yet, for him, he also managed to discover hope in that moment.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
I am of that mind, with Longfellow. Leaving aside the specific religious connotations, I am sure we can find our better natures not yet out of reach and once again, rekindle neighborliness, kindness, and toleration and find peace on earth, or at least in Franklin.
I meet few who do not share this hope. So why not here, why not now, and why not in Franklin?
We will and we must disagree but we should recognize that people who actually intend harm to others are a rarity. To behave as if a young mother of four children, brimming with energy and kindness, is an existential threat to society, is at best a gross exaggeration.
It is incumbent upon us to find out why and how those with whom we disagree came to their views and values. We can and we must understand that ideas – and civil societies – evolve and can do so peacefully when we occasionally hold our tongue and foreswear a cruel remark for the sake of sustaining a vital and meaningful conversation.
We have an opportunity to be large-hearted with each other, to imagine our similarities instead of alighting only on our differences. Yes, there is a gulf between us on many issues but our job is to bridge the gulf and construct new edifices where we all can feel at home.
I plan to be at the polls on Tuesday, anxious to meet all my fellow citizens and candidates and hopeful that they will bring with them not just their list of candidates to vote for but also curiosity, warmth and a sense of humor. Afterall, at a bare minimum, we are all mortal and that fact should provide each of us with a starting point.