Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Time To Change The Culture

There is a culture, here in Sturbridge, that encourages actions by officials to be performed for what they feel is the common good, and with little, or no input, from the citizens.  This culture also insured that little would come of their actions since, they were for the common good, after all, and who would question well intended actions for the benefit of all?

Good question, and if this was 1993, it would never be asked.  We assumed everything was being done for our benefit.  If something was questioned because it looked like it was an action that could have more thought behind it, it would take a while to find out who to ask about it, a longer time to look through all the minutes of the meetings to find an answer, even longer to find out who was ultimately responsible, and in the end, a lot longer time taken in fixing the problem.  If the issue was one that would generate the interest of the press, then things would move faster, and more answers obtained, but a missing Veterans Memorial, and who made the decision to not return it to its original site does not warrant investigative journalism, although it should.  

In 2011, things are radically different.  We may be presented with a concern, or question,  at 8:00 in the morning, and that question could be passed on to many others by 8:15 in hopes of finding an answer.  In the meantime, the old fashioned "word on the street" grows exponentially at coffee counters, and in lines at the supermarket.  iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries beep with text messages, and emails, and by 10:45 many, many others have heard of the issue, and also want an answer.  They each will email, or call their selectman, or some other official in hopes of finding out what is going on.  The selectmen will feel the need to respond with answers a lot quicker than in 1993, and they to will email, call, or talk in person to colleagues, and others,  by early afternoon.

Then something begins to happen.  Something unlike anything that has ever happened before: wheels begin to turn long before the issue is but a distant memory.  Often in the same day!  Unheard of in 1993.

Welcome to the digital age, and one of the side effects brought on by it:  Rapid Accountability.  No longer can an issue be swept under the rug, or put aside until the next year.  Once an issue is out in the public view it will stay there until resolved, or answered for in part thanks to the internet, emails, and places like this that harp on an issue until an answer is found, a resolution proposed, and every last dead horse is beaten beyond recognition, over and over again.

It started last week with a query about why the Veterans Memorial would not be put back to where it had stood for years in front of the town hall, and the realization that there was never an intention to return it to the site outside the town hall, but rather to hang the bronze plaques on a second floor wall where people can view them during visiting hours.

People don't just stop at a Memorial to read the names, they also stop and appreciate what a community has erected in honor of its men and women that served to protect our freedoms.  What has been constructed, and how the memorial is presented says so much about those that did serve, and those that are honoring them.

The same can be said when the Memorials are dismantled, and put away.  It says so much about those that at one time honored them.

Now, the issue is out in the daylight.  The selectmen are all aware, and looking for answers.  Some may be found, but most won't be.  There will denials, allegations, and accusations leveled, but in the end what will happen is a committee will be formed to study how the Veterans Memorial can be rebuilt on the original site, or across the street with the Memorials honoring our war dead, or maybe on the town common.  Then money will be appropriated to hire a firm to design the monument, and to rebuild it.  Hopefully, veterans could once again give their time and expertise to do both of these chores.    Veterans from the Revolutionary War built the stone wall around the Old Cemetery on Main Street where many of their comrades were laid to rest.

Veterans will always take care of their own, even when a town has shifted its focus, but I hope the two parties will work hand in hand on this project.

1 comment:

  1. Our Memorial for Our VeteransTuesday, May 31, 2011

    Thank you, Wally. You look at a problem objectively and have a way of saying just the right thing.
    Sometimes it's difficult for some of us to see the individual "tree of hope" in a forest of personal and collective hurt. You know how it goes. Something built by a special hand, with real historic significance gets destroyed and there is bound to be an outcry, because you cannot ever make a copy become the original.
    Having said that, and wanting so much to simply put the same type of memorial, built of the same materials, back on the same honored spot, at a very reasonable price, I wonder do we have, today, people in town, who can, in honor of our veterans, rebuild our Veterans War Memorial and put the plaques back in place? Wouldn't that be wonderful?!
    I know other ideas will be floated about, and aesthetics will again be in question, and in the end, perhaps there will be a compromise, but, for now, my dearest wish on this matter is to, as closely as we can, replicate what we had. A brand new replica of Grandpa's fiddle, never played by Grandpa is not quite the same as the real thing, but let's get together and do the best we can with what we've got. Big bucks can never replace the warmth of the real touch of those who care.


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