In their cover story this week, Seven Days digs into the layers of connection in one day of Front Porch Forum postings across Vermont. Read “Talk of the Towns: Neighbors Seek Plumbers, Lost Pets and Community on Front Porch Forum” here! We are grateful to all who make FPF the vibrant place it is.
Cara in the Town of Halifax recently posted the following on her local Front Porch Forum when a neighbor suggested banning political speech on FPF. We love her perspective on this. Read on…
Some postings on FPF concern politics at every level – local (like the 5-person board discussion), state (Article 22) and national (names of parties). FPF *is* a place to have these discussions – there is, after all, a standard category called “election.”
The people in our small communities all share certain values – the ones that lead people who were born here to stay and that lead people who weren’t born here to make it their home.
But we don’t all share the same views, not by a long stretch. The value of FPF is that it makes it possible to find common ground and discover you like or respect people despite the fact that you may wildly disagree on issues.
That’s missing in so many parts of our lives. Let’s not strip it out of FPF, too.
I’ll recommend an episode of the podcast Revisionist History to illustrate the point. It’s hosted by Malcolm Gladwell (FN: If you don’t like him, no worries – I never did before either but it’s a terrific podcast, not glib like so much of his writing). The episode is called “When Will Met Grace” (FN: if you never liked the show, no worries – I never did either but the episode made me appreciate it). Gladwell notes that the show was hated by ultra conservatives and ultra progressives alike. But the show was on one of the four TV networks we all watched, and that resulted in it having a demonstrably moderating effect on private lives and on the national conversation.
Unfortunately, it’s so easy to avoid these days. Nowadays, people think they’re achieving that same goal by watching both Fox News and MSNBC, or reading the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. But consuming two extremes isn’t the same as consuming something shared in the middle.
That’s why I love FPF. It doesn’t permit anonymous posts. It’s limited to folks who have planted themselves in a small geographic area. And, most importantly, it caters to everything from lost cats to roofer recommendations to crime reports to asking for help to stack wood to, yes, politics. I like that it’s everything – because in that way, it has the capacity to have a moderating effect on all of our lives in all sorts of ways. I know for a fact that it’s helped me forge a sense of connection and community with people I wouldn’t otherwise have had an opportunity to meet or know if we all veered off into our political silos. Knowing that we have such wildly divergent views on things is important because it’s part of what makes the connection so valuable and ultimately, gives me hope.
We can only control our own conduct. If I don’t jibe with a particular person in the community or with certain views and it bothers me to see some posts? The answer isn’t to tell people to be quiet. The answer is for me to decide I don’t want to listen. But I do listen and I know from personal experience that my world is richer as a result.
I hope everyone will feel free to keep posting and keep all of these conversations going. I agree there’s no room here for hateful political or personal attacks, but just because a view is expressed that one doesn’t agree with doesn’t make it hateful.
Front Porch Forum is a Vermont public benefit corporation. To that end, our social mission (aka public benefit) is front and center in all our work.
Each year, per state law, we publish a report about our progress in helping neighbors connect and build community in our territory.
More neighbors are talking about voting, ballot issues, and local concerns in the weeks leading up to Town Meeting Day. New candidates and incumbents are sharing their platforms too. While some members say it can feel like a lot of content (often heated!), consider what this member in Springfield, VT, shared recently on her Front Porch Forum…
“While I’ve posted numerous times over the last couple of years looking for referrals for home improvement projects—and gotten great tips—how cool is it that FPF has become a place to learn about community issues and the people putting themselves out there to make a difference!“
“I don’t have time to call five different candidates to ask how they feel about one issue or another in Springfield schools. In a town without a newspaper, I appreciate the back and forth on FPF and opportunity to learn from the candidates themselves and from community members who support one person or another.” • Kelly in Springfield
Learn more about FPF Paid Campaign Postings here.
Wow! A number of students and families participated in this year’s “At-Home” version of the Good Citizen Challenge, complete with 40-plus activities encouraging learning in History, Government, Community Service and News Literacy. Many put FPF to work to complete the activities:
Team Tiki in Wolcott organized donations to the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. Blaine, 6, chose the charity. “It was all him,” said mom Laura.
Laura put out a call for donations on their Front Porch Forum, and neighbors they’d never met responded, dropping food off at their house. They’d beep when they arrived, said Laura, and “We’d wave from the window” or help unload the items.
She said delivering the donations was a big moment for Blaine. “I think it was the first time he really had an experience where he could actually feel that he had an impact on the world,” she said. “Things like that really sink in for children. I think he won’t ever forget that.”
Pick up the April issue of Kids VT, which is in this week’s Seven Days to learn more, or read online.