I went to vote yesterday. As one of a small community, I, like many neighbors, enjoy this annual rite, and often get to wave and say hello to folks I haven’t seen in a while.
This year, as we hopefully pull out of this pandemic, the chance to stroll amongst fellow townspeople was most welcome. This year I was thrilled to see town workers manning some of the desks, and catch site of neighbors as I gave my name and address and was handed my paper ballots.
As I strolled in midmorning I was amazed to find nearly all the booths full. With no major candidates on the ballot I was a bit surprised, but took it as a good sign of Camden’s engagement in the issues.
As I turned away from the ballot scanning box, my civic duty having been quickly fulfilled, I perused the petition tables.
Fellow citizens were lined up, hunched over, asking questions of the folks seated behind the desk. I too wondered what was being offered, so sidled up to the first couple, and pair of gray-haired folks behind a petition form to get a vote on Camden’s ballot about saving the Montgomery Dam.
I mentioned that I thought we did not yet know enough about the complex issue to have a town vote. The folks behind the desk launched a reply: “That’s exactly right and if we have a vote there will have to be more discussion.”
I said I didn’t think either side of the issue seemed to be listening and that I just wanted the townspeople to have a chance to talk, not vote. I think I might even have said that I wished both sides of the issue would “just chill.”
This time the man quickly quipped, “you’re not listening.”
Taken aback, I was glad his partner behind the petition scolded him “don’t say that.” By this time they had lost me—I slid down along the table, happily signing the next petition to get health care for all into legislative discussion.
Next on the table was a legal pad and another rendering of the same Montgomery Dam and river flowing into the harbor. When asked, these young folks said by signing my contact details on the pad in front of me they’d provide more information on the restoration of the river. Their tone was pleasant and open. I told them I was glad they were there, that I had been hoping the townspeople would have a chance to better understand what was involved in the decisions. They thanked me.
I walked out the door, waved at my neighbors.
Fellow townspeople: let’s drop the polarization about the issue of our town’s future and the river.
Let’s take lots of deep breaths and work together to create forums for listening and rebuilding together. Let’s stop forcing binary solutions to complex issues.
There are some huge issues facing us individually, as a town, as a state, as a nation, as humans on a planet in distress. We don’t need to add fuel to the fire—we need to reduce the friction and get along.
Molly Mulhern lives in Camden