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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Letter From A Friend

Americans are cordial, frank, anxious to oblige, and ready to make friends. In the fulness of their heart, they generally promise more than they can keep.
Francis Pulszky, and Theresa Pulszky. "White, Red, Black: Sketches of American Society in the United States During the Visit of Their Guests" (1853).

One of the nicest things about the Internet is the ability of those who live at long distances to communicate with one another in a thoughtful way. Of course, in my day, we called it letter writing but then the recipient was obliged to pay the postage, and perhaps feed and water the messenger and horses if in a rural area. On the whole, I like this way better.

Porcupine received a letter from a friend who lives in the Midwest with close emotional ties to Cape Cod. He wrote, in part,

What is it about the air of politics on the Cape? I just don't get it sometimes, and I am not just talking about Republican vs. Democrats vs. Independents. I am talking about the air of mistrust, or uneasiness in business that seems to always hang in the air in the Northeast and especially the Cape. There have been some great people over the years that I have met, and they have been a part of the Cape. But there have also been those that seem just over the edge, and this blog thing (a.k.a., editorials incognito) seems to bring out the best and the worst in some of them, even all the way to the top. And the sad part of all this is that I have not even met any of them face to face and I get this feeling of undertones and backhandedness that is go on, and when some things happen I feel like saying, where have I been, or are things really that different between the mid west and the Cape. I always thought I knew or at the least kept up with the ways of the Cape, but all of a sudden I am beginning to wonder. Is my mid-west thinking, that 'tainted', moderate-conservative Republican thinking, that means I am just not getting the liberal back stabbing mentality of the hard core Democratic east coast? I love the Cape, love the atmosphere that is has had in the past. Has it really changed that much or am I reading too much into this whole thing?
Porcupine wrote back.

Much of the tension on the Cape has to do with its changing. For decades, city people with liberal beliefs came for a month or so, shook their head at the simple country folk and went back to Manhattan to watch David Susskind. Now, they are staying, and reasonably want to import their way of thinking with them. What they did not reckon with is the bedrock of town government.

I don't necessarily mean elected officials. I mean the guy who owns the bank and the car dealership, and the guy who sits on the FinCom and watches every penny in the
budget, and the guy who is a gruff landlord who can always be counted on to quietly write a fat check for a person in trouble. These guys (I call them The Taxpayers, because they pay half the taxes in town) are used to running the town a certain way, and having those other people leave quietly when Labor Day comes. Most are WWII vintage and have quietly given their lives to their community, really not asking for thanks, and have been good civic stewards.

They aren't used to answering questions. They don't like it when liberal groups organize and put articles on the town meeting warrant to get out of Iraq or repeal the PATRIOT Act or support Falun Gong. Town meeting is serious, not some damn debating club. It irks them when prating people - with all of two years under their belt as a second homeowner - TELL them that they have been doing a bad job all these years.

The washashores cannot understand why we don't have curbside trash pickup, full sewerage, more racial diversity and David Susskind. The natives cannot understand why they live here if all they want to do is change the place - if the city is so great, why don't they stay there?

Most of these tensions are unspoken, and perhaps even unrecognized by those who feel them the most keenly. That is what makes the attitudes and tactics so spiteful and underhanded - each side is fighting for something in a murk, not recognizing their own motives, let alone the other guy's.

Porcupine is sharing these letters in hopes of beginning a genuine dialogue - for the Cape Cod that is, the Cape Cod that was, and most importantly, for the Cape Cod that is about to be.


Blogger Gary said...

I agree again. I will bookmark your blog and return. Personally, I despise party politics, much like Ben Franklin, and feel that a true democracy with true freedom would also be free of political parties. It is the individual which makes a democracy work. Power to the people, individually. The time when we should come together to create a mandate is called an election, a vote, a referrendum. Instead, today, political platforms are decided in advance, behind closed doors, by insiders, and then the campaign trail becomes a marketting task, filled with spin, talking points, advertising dollars, pundit written speeches, etc... Small town politics, the politics of the town meeting are the basis of any true democracy, which does not exist much in this nation any more. The ideas i read here, are very similar to those voiced in my small town, and the small towns of my favorite state, Vermont, where urbanites are also invading, and altering the landscape politically. New Yorkers who have moved to southern Vermont espouse a love for the small town charm, the agriculture, the simple life and the natural beauty. Yet after just a couple years living there, they want curbside trash pick up, a new corporate convenience store (instead of the multi generational General Store), town utilities (instead of limiting their consumption and waste to a small septic system) ... they want the urban landscape they escaped from, and do not truly embrace the lifestyle and values of libertarian farmers, craftsmen, tradesmen.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recent Supreme Court decisions have gone the way of saying that maybe the Federal govt should leave the states alone, maybe that will carry over and the state government will start to leave the cities alone more.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Gary said...
Personally, I despise party politics.

Buddy, thats what makes the political world go 'round.


10:19 PM  
Blogger Bugsy said...

"...a genuine dialogue - for the Cape Cod that is, the Cape Cod that was, and most importantly, for the Cape Cod that is about to be."

Peter, if you a really serious about this, let's talk.

8:06 PM  
Blogger dave said...

I participate in my own Town Meeting (but not on the Cape). Disagreements between "townies" and new folks exist pretty much everywhere, not just on the Cape. Its amazing to me that you can live in a town for 15+ years and still be considered a newcomer, but that's the way it is.

Once folks relocate and make a place their new home, they get to vote and express opinions just like old timers. Its called democracy (and equal protection of the laws). Of course, they should be civil, as should the townies.

Change, however, is inevitable, for all people, all things, and all places. This includes places that, in the eyes of some, are "perfect" already.

7:00 PM  

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