The Difference Is in What We Love
Most workday mornings (especially if everybody in the house slept through the night), my drive over the Sakonnet River Bridge brings a wave of gratitude for the sights that fill my days. Similarly, the breeze off the water, whether warm or cool, as I cross the parking lot to church come a Sunday morning makes it that much easier to understand that life per se is a blessing, and life in Rhode Island, in Tiverton, serves to emphasize that fact.
I describe these sensations because those who love Rhode Island from an ideological cocoon (often receiving sustenance and livelihood in some degree from its corrupt civic culture) tend to go straight for the smear that reformers despise the place that they are attempting to improve and the people whom they are attempting to enlighten. Such was the case when one artist of aspersion, Patrick Crowley, the Assistant Executive Director of National Education Association Rhode Island, called me “the lead spokesman for ‘I Hate Rhode Islanders'” in the Providence Journal back in January. And such is the rhetoric simmering behind the lips of those who would scald Tiverton Citizens for Change.
Nobody devoting hours to the cause of improving the place in which he or she lives “hates” that place. Such crusaders may be wrong. They may be right, although too eager. But differences of opinion at the local level indicate, at their most profound, that the disputants merely love different things about their home towns.
So, while I can’t speak to the motivation of everybody who has expressed a desire for lower taxes and a less suffocating public sector, I can offer two examples of moments that leave me unable just to let Tiverton, and Rhode Island, be as they are. One (the obvious) comes as an echo to an envelope ripped open annually in the kitchen, bringing knowledge that a flat-rate mortgage is no protection against the town government’s demands for more of homeowners’ slender budgets. Ordering our household finances as carefully as we may is no charm against our representatives’ promising our taxes for things we cannot afford.
The other example comes when I’m driving around the area on some errand and get a glimpse of the intriguing character of our surroundings. That geographic personality is an attribute that I lack the time and resources to explore, and its tantalizing, unattainable proximity directly affects citizens’ quality of life. For too many of us, this town and state provide a setting for survival, not opportunity. For passing wistfulness, not sustained enjoyment. Yet, those who believe that the reins of power are theirs by right resent our refusal to accept legislated and negotiated largess as part of the inviolable scenery.
I don’t know what sort of sensation will greet me with the evening wind outside the VFW hall on Shove St., Tiverton, after the first public TCC meeting, next Monday (the 15th), but I’m certain of the chance that it will contain hope, and he whose hope is nourished has much to love.