Letter to the editor from Sandy Litvack, Democrat on the Greenwich Board of Selectman and candidate for a second term
As we roll into the election season there is more and more discussion about what role, if any, national issues and the conduct of our president should play in our local municipal elections. For years, and especially in the last few years, some have argued that these issues have nothing to do with Greenwich and they should play no part in our local dialogue. I, for one, strongly disagree. In fact I think it is critical that we face and discuss some of these matters publicly and honestly.
Charlottesville occurred during my campaign for First Selectman in 2017 and I was truly shocked and appalled that not a single local elected official spoke out condemning the statement by our president that there were “good people on both sides”. True his statement had nothing to do with the effort to stack the Board of Education nor did it have anything to do with the suppressed parking Bureau audit but, –as the phrase goes–c’mon man! It doesn’t take much courage to disassociate yourself from bigotry and racism. Yet silence reined. My criticism was shrugged off by my opponent and by each of our local officials, including the current Republican candidate for First Selectman.
Now, two years later with the dialogue in this country deteriorating even further, we are once again hearing “let’s not talk about the racism emanating from our highest office; let’s not talk about the human right violations at our borders; let’s not speak about the attack on our democracy by foreign nations and the shrugged response from our leaders.” “No”, they say, “These things have nothing to do with our town. We are Greenwich”, as though somehow that justifies and explains the blind eye they cast. It does not.
The truth is Greenwich is not an island. It is part of a State and part of this country, as are all of us. We are impacted by divisive language and we are all threatened by the possibility of foreign interference in our elections – all our elections. We are decent people who are repelled by the notion that people seeking asylum are being denied basic human rights at our border. And, while these offensive acts do not having anything to do with our borrowing power, or our educational needs or even our mill rate, they have a great deal to do with who we are—as a people and community—and who we want to be.
If local leaders speak about the value of diversity in Greenwich but then sit silently in the face of the conditions being inflicted upon people at our border, they are putting party over principle and they are being hypocritical. When our leaders don’t speak up to condemn offensive rhetoric or the denial of basic human rights, they are failing to lead. This does not mean, of course, that one must hold a press conference (as one official suggested tongue in cheek), every time an offensive comment is made by any public official. No, what it means is that when our President makes racist comments or encourages violations of human rights, silence should not be an option for our leaders. If it is, it is a failure of moral leadership and that failure is directly relevant, in my view, to our town and the people we want leading it and representing us.
Whether it is a municipal, State or national election we want and deserve leaders who do not duck responsibility and are willing to speak out in the face of wrongs without regard to what party or person it offends. That is leadership and that should not be hard. To those who say “we are tired of talking about this”, I say we must talk about it because otherwise it becomes the “new normal”. That is unacceptable. We must reject those things which are antithetical to who we are and what we want Greenwich to be. Failing to do that is an abdication of responsibility and does not merit public support.