It’s not always clear to me if folks in town read this column. Occasionally I’ll get a comment or two, but a lot of times, especially lately, I won’t hear a peep. So sometimes I look for feedback from those whose opinions I value.
Such was the case when I asked my good friend and longtime Suffieldian Eric Johnston for his take on a recently published piece.
“It’s an observeration for sure,” he started, employing a soon-to-be trademarked word, “where I am lost is the intent to tie it back to local interest.”
Fair point. It’s not the first time I’ve been flagged for the faux pas. (For those keeping score, the first offense was my take on the pizza-eating habits of New Yorkers in Oct. 2010.) The Observer is strictly a local paper and this column is a self-titled observation of our town, but the past 12 months have demonstrated that the world is creeping in on Suffield.
While part of the global encroachment is natural (pandemics, weather, disasters, etc.), which ignores manmade borders, and part of it is cultural — social changes that roll through boundaries — all of it will be deleterious to the town if the community is not put first.
As Suffield and the rest of the country emerge from the post-COVID-19 world, not everything will go back to the way it was. People will happily resume the activities that brought them enjoyment – restaurants, bars, concerts and sporting events. Will that enthusiasm translate to volunteerism and community involvement? For many in town, attending church services was the primary, if not only, way they engaged with the community. When churches reopen, will people return to their pews or will the precipitous decline in religious attendance continue? Fears of catching the coronavirus prompted a massive shift towards online shopping and home deliveries. Will people return to the businesses that depended upon local customers, or choose convenience over community?
The post-pandemic life is just one vector of our town. All politics used to be local; today, they’re national. Pair a Democrat and a Republican at a barbeque this Fourth of July, and there’s sure to be fireworks. People are busier; homes insular; families spread thinner and neighbors quieter.
The ties that bound the American community were already fraying a year ago. Has the outside world chopped the last few strands?
Have I got your attention? Are you still reading? Good. Prove me wrong. Do something for your town. Stand up for Suffield.