Toward a New Direction in Rhode Island
Among the qualities that I love about Rhode Island is its size. For some Americans, for example, attending an event across their state requires a plane and a hotel. Rhode Islanders can traverse theirs without even stopping for gas. One can get to know this state; it’s manageable.
Of course, its manageability is also its great vulnerability. Entrenched powers, with their short-sighted self-interest, have been managing it right into a hole. So much is this true, it increasingly seems with each passing election that the only reasonable response is to give up on electoral politics. Between Rhode-apathy and the habitual voting practices — most notably those of voting Democrat and of granting the state government permission to grab new money for worthwhile expenditures that ought to have been included in its general spending — it is tempting to dismiss the system as unfixable.
So, many of us have begun to think it necessary to look for ways to work outside of the system, and here the state’s size emerges again as a wonderful quality — in terms of both effectiveness and opportunity for experimentation. Many of us have also begun to think that the way in which to implement the conservative approaches that can save this state is through the very conservative principle of community activity, the conservative ethos of open and plain discussion of facts, and the classically liberal application of universal freedoms. To put it into a credo: we must give everybody a forum in which to discuss matters of concern to us all, within the context of plain recitation of stubborn facts and honestly assessed principles, at the most basic levels of society.
One such, newly implemented, experiment is Bill Felkner’s Parents’ Forum for the Chariho School district. On the index page, the Web site offers links to more information than the average parent will have time or inclination to peruse. Perhaps more importantly, Felkner has set up a message board, in the form of a blog, through which parents can discuss matters of mutual interest. I encourage those to whom the site applies to participate, and those to whom it does not to pursue similar strategies.
The movement to push Rhode Island toward healthier societal construction will by necessity incorporate many roles, and it is crucial that we remember that, especially in this state, local involvement can have far-reaching effects.