In communities across America, when a common & rational direction is most needed, cities & towns are about to confront the absence of a rational consensus. Residents who are in the grip of conspiracy theories (Qanon, anti-vaxxers, rumors of antifa, etc.) and those who have retained a sound understanding may live in the same place, but might as well have come from different continents.
The conspiracy-possessed have, in too many communities, been indulged for years: local leaders have condescended to them, tried to balance their views as though they were serious, or run from them – indeed, leaders have done everything except speak bluntly and truthfully to them.
Politicians and appointees who never met a press release they wouldn’t send have been silent in the face of nuttiness.
At the same time, in a place like Whitewater, hundreds of commuting professionals without residency go home each night to other places. More should have been done to welcome them genuinely: not on the terms of a few self-promoting local notables, but on considerate, equal terms.
They are not going home to better places; they are leaving each day a place that deserves better care. A nightly separation from the city is not a sign of sophistication; it’s merely the conceit of sophistication.
The worst recent case is, of course, Trump and Trumpism: a thousand local resolutions and declarations, but not a single, truthful statement that the president is a bigoted, ignorant autocrat. There’s more reasonable doubt about exact the color of the sky than there will ever be about what Trump is, or what he has done to this republic.
Now, with a pandemic, cities & school districts find themselves facing small, oft-placated factions that repeat what they hear from a vainglorious fool. Now, with a pandemic, some of these cities & school districts find themselves with professionals who aren’t embedded in their workplace communities.
These have been – rightly – free choices.
They have also been – truly – poor choices.
It’s much harder to be direct after years of indirection, yet more necessary now than ever.