SPILO: The other epidemic gripping Greenwich

Letter to the editor from Michael Spilo, The views expressed are my own.

In reference to The New Yorker article – “How Greenwich Republicans learned to love Trump” and Ms. Levine’s (LEVINE: Greenwich’s Immoral Compass, May 13, 2020) and Ms. Swomley’s (Swomley: Feelings about Greenwich Schools Budget Cuts are Heartfelt and Legitimate, May 30, 2020) letters to GFP.

Once upon a time, the New Yorker was introspective and self-deprecating, with cartoons artfully chuckling at New Yorkers as depressives with a warped world view. Sadly, today they need to make caricatures of towns like Greenwich. Their wit is relegated to quoting a blogger who nicknamed Round Hill Road “Rogues Hill Road.” They characterize Greenwich as “selfish,” “power hungry” and “cruel” by pointing to Connecticut’s 17 billionaires while ignoring New York’s 105, and they justify their name calling with a thin veneer of name dropping.

This is symptomatic of an affliction sweeping the extreme left which has taken hold in Greenwich. It’s not a virus, but it’s a serious problem. This affliction is an addictive form of self-righteous indignation which makes people believe their cause is so morally superior that they can disregard and berate their neighbors.

Facts and data become irrelevant; appeals to emotion rule; And so, Ms. Swomley feels she can compare Greenwich’s 9,000 enrollment to Cornwall, Canaan, or Sharon with fewer than 150 students. Ms. Swomley even seems to believe that an unsupported anecdote from someone from Long Island is
somehow relevant, while Ms. Levine finds it meaningful that “Greenwich BET” shows up in Google.

To those affected, all that matters is their cause, which they are only able to see in glowing if superficial terms – they are invariably the sole guardians of our planet, defending the weak, safeguarding the future, saving children, or #resisting Fascists by increasing the power of government.

Once upon a time, we could disagree without being disagreeable. Today, some people seem to be perpetually fighting for causes which they believe are so just that they find it acceptable to call neighbors who disagree “power hungry,” “ideologues,” “scum,” “cruel” or “selfish.”

And as The New Yorker points out, to them, any disagreement with their views is an indication of a character flaw, and invariably, even inevitably, such disagreements devolve into questions like “How do you make your peace with Trump? His behavior toward women and immigrants? His separation of children from parents at the border?”

They seem to end up there out of a need to cling to their indignation when they fail on the merits. They have an absolute belief in their own propaganda, regardless of evidence to the contrary, and if you disagree in any way, they deploy a kind of irrational transitive property of hatefulness to conclude you are hateful, and therefore anything goes: For Mr. Osnos this seems the ultimate basis for declaring Greenwich selfish, power-hungry and cruel; Ms. Levine feels free to call her neighbors scum, and Ms. Swomley labels people ideologues. And both Swomley and Levine fall back on the same shallow New Yorker article, presumably believing it is evidence of something other than their unquestioning faith in their own propaganda.

It seems their deep-rooted certainty lets them ignore all the historic harm which comes from such hubris and demagoguery. In Greenwich, this extends to singling out individuals in town who question their dogma and triggers a compulsion to vilify all conservatives for their reasoned prudence and accountability.

It doesn’t matter whether the Town’s budget cuts are needed, or whether additional spending is appropriate or helpful, or whether other towns and states are cutting back. It doesn’t matter if residents have lost their jobs, or their savings have collapsed or if economic prospects are grim. The self-proclaimed morally superior have spoken, and if we disagree, we are not mere ideologues, we are cruel, selfish, immoral, power hungry scum, hiding behind “gracious walls.”

Then they wonder: “The country is fractured – why must we be?”

I believe my neighbors are responsible citizens. I believe our spending should be prudent, carefully conceived, and of clear benefit to the town. I believe there are no sacred cows. Our decisions should be reasoned and data-based, not based on false equivalences, anecdotes or appeals to emotion. But more importantly, our discourse should be free of bullying, and free of attacks on character from people who need to pretend that only they care about our safety or our children’s future.

Unfortunately, our political discourse becomes more shrill daily.

Michael Spilo
Chairman, Public Works Committee
RTM District 11

(1) https://imgc.artprintimages.com/img/print/of-course-you-feel-great-these-things-are-

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_of_the_World_from_9th_Avenue#/media/File:Steinber