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.
Town Meeting Day brings out conversation between neighbors on FPF.
“Thank you FPF Member Support for your clarification and endorsement of political discussion. I have no ‘dog in this fight’ but think the Reading election discussion is totally fascinating. I have enjoyed reading all the posts and if I didn’t, I simply wouldn’t. I almost can’t wait for the next installment. You all are exerting your democratic rights of free speech. And, what a great place we all have for doing that very thing – Front Porch Forum. FPF the highest “stump” for our communities and available for all to express their views on most issues. CHEERS to all the contributors on all sides of the discussion and thank you FPF for being there.” • Neil in Brownsville
“It looks like it is that time of year again, when we start seeing/reading heated discussions here on FPF. As your neighbor I would like to stress , as I have in the past, we are in this together. We all need to take a few minutes, calm our thoughts, and remember that most people want to do the right thing. We also should remember that we all make mistakes, no one ever learns anything without them. The key is to understand what went wrong, learn from it, and become a better person. I love living on this Island, and it is not only the location that I love, its also the community that is around me. It’s time to be respectful to one another, because “We are in this together.” • Matthew in Grand Isle
“I wanted to write and thank FPF for moderating our town bulletin board. The world seems like it has changed so much over the past few years…but I guess there have always been tough conversations to have about how certain people share in public. It must be incredibly challenging for you all to make decisions on what content to ban. Your platform has brought towns together in such a lovely way, and I appreciate the way it connects us in rural Vermont.” • Mary in Underhill
Many are using Front Porch Forum to discuss political issues and candidates.
“There is no other source for local information about candidates, issues, and budgets that is free. I’m glad there are no memes here, no trolling for the sake of argument, but I deeply value the access to local issues, challenges, opinions, and endorsements of local candidates for office. Civil discourse is valuable. Let’s keep the emphasis on Civil as we continue the discourse.” • Wade in Brandon, Vt.
“If, as stated, FPF is about connecting, then it should be more than just a community bulletin board. Someone said that there are plenty of other forums for political discussion. True, but by the same token there are also plenty of other places to let people know that you have extra puzzles or vegetable starts to give away. As long as we keep things civil and respectful there’s nothing wrong with an exchange of differing viewpoints. And those who don’t wish to read something are perfectly free to skip over it.” • Lisa in Brattleboro, Vt.
“A forum is, among other things, a site for discussion. If we can’t air our differences, how can we ever resolve them? For that matter, can we really understand issues, local or otherwise, if we don’t discuss them, if we view them only monocularly, through the single lens of our own parochial points of view? What safer place to air one’s views than FPF, where tempers are necessarily tempered by the relative quiet of written speech? And what better way to organize and solidify one’s thoughts, to familiarize oneself with one’s own views, than to write them down in coherent sentences? Write on!” • Keith in So. Hero, Vt.
“I would say that the idea of Front Porch Forum is to replicate the idea of sitting on the front porch and discussing what is going on in the world–near and far. I don’t think that a forum is only for looking for lost pets or selling tires. The definition of a forum is a place where people can exchange ideas, like being a libertarian, discussing the issues of the day, announcing area activities, and looking for lost pets and selling tires. Whatever people used to do on their front porch. I find discussions on the forum to be interesting and thought provoking. Obviously I don’t always agree but my horizons are broadened, causing me to at least think about things that otherwise would not be brought to my attention. If you don’t like the political stuff, don’t read it, but appreciate the fact that you can read about Odin, 225-65-17’s for sale and that the farmer’s market has moved in doors and all sorts of other things. I encourage people to put their thoughts and ideas out there for others to think about. At least we’re having a discussion with our neighbors about things that matter.” • Thomas in Roxbury, Vt.
It’s Town Meeting Day in Vermont and Front Porch Forum is buzzing with posts about community-centric topics and local issues. Stay informed on what’s happening in your town and around the state, and keep the conversation going! Here are some great posts about Town Meeting Day from neighbors on FPF:
“Hi Neighbors! For those of you that haven’t taken advantage of early voting, I’m extending an invitation to help get you to Holley Hall tomorrow to VOTE! I have a young one with me, so my availability is limited. But during the morning, we would be more than happy to pick you up & take you home if getting out is a challenge for you.
Please get in touch this evening if you’d like to make a plan. Thank you to everyone who participates in voting!” • Megan in Bristol
“Here’s our proposal:
WHAT: a real Pot Luck Lunch
WHEN: on Town Meeting Day, Tuesday, March 3rd, whenever the meeting ends
WHERE: in the gym at Doty Memorial School
WHY: because it’s so good to be able to sit down and talk with neighbors that we may not see very often, while sharing a delicious meal!” • Dell in Worcester
“Town Meeting Day is a Vermont tradition that feels deeply important to me. We live in a place where we still can truly participate in the democratic process, connect with our neighbors, and model active citizenship to our children. Please consider attending, even if you never have before! I hope to see you there.” • Tai in Charlotte
Don’t forget to share your thoughts on Town Meeting Day on your FPF!