Over the past four years, I have observed local town elections where multiple candidates have been personally attacked, shamed, ostracized and/or bullied on social media, website posts and/or in person. These are not one-time events. A candidate for Select Board had his children (adult) targeted, a candidate for School Committee felt the need to withdraw from the race, and of course, the latest School Committee candidate situation. The common thread is that they have not been part of a particular political persuasion.
At the same time, in my conversations with local business owners and townspeople over the past year (since I have been Chair of the HRTC), I have been informed of threats of social media retaliation if people voice their opinions on town matters that are not part of the “mainstream” opinion.
We need to ask ourselves: Is this the culture we want in our town? Is this the example we want to set for our children as our great school system teaches them not to bully their classmates? Do we want our local business owners to not be able to voice their opinion for fear of a boycott?
Is this the legacy we want to be remembered by with regards to our children, grandchildren, and future generations?
We can do better!
A year ago, the Hopkinton Republican Town Committee (HRTC) adopted a new Vision Statement. The third bullet in our core values reads:
“We believe in freedom for all people to believe in what they choose to believe in. We believe in freedom from being discriminated against or harassed based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender or gender identification, sexual orientation, or political beliefs.”
Where we can start…
I can speak for the HRTC which denounces all forms of bullying, shaming and political nastiness and will address our members that engage in that behavior. We ask that our Select Board and other town political committees publicly denounce this behavior as well.
How can we all do better? I am not suggesting an end to political debate or thoughtful policy related questions to candidates. We should all be open to more thoughtful and respectful debate of diverse political opinions. Let’s remember, we all have the same goal…keep Hopkinton moving forward as a great town to live and raise a family!
I encourage us all to take a step back and reflect on how we engage with our neighbors on a day-to-day basis and resist being pulled into “pack behavior” that ends in words and actions we are not necessarily proud of. But I believe we can all do a little better and be a little nicer every day, even if we don’t agree on the specifics of how to move our town forward.
As we teach our children, when you observe this type of behavior, don’t turn away…become an upstander!
Together we can change the political environment in our small slice of America, encourage positive political debate and engagement, and be nicer neighbors!
Jim Mirabile, Chair, Hopkinton Republican Town Committee