Woog’s World: Didn’t vote? Then shut your mouth
Election Day was last week. Westporters celebrated by not voting.
The weather was fine. Candidates for local boards — education, finance, planning and zoning, and RTM — had spent weeks campaigning, debating, and putting out (tons of) road signs.
A vast majority of their friends and neighbors — men and women who have kids in school, pay taxes, and have concerns about development, affordable housing and dozens of other local issues — apparently did not care. Instead of spending the few minutes it takes to vote (and, with no lines, it was even speedier than usual), they found other things to do.
They could even have gotten breakfast at the polls. PTA bake sales are as American as gerrymandering.
I’m not going to go all red-white-and-blue here and talk about the sacrifices countless Americans have made to ensure the right to vote, or the fact that even today, people around the world are dying in order to affect governmental change.
It’s true that Westport has won statewide awards for voting participation, but those were for national elections. It seems that when it comes to choosing the men and women who will have a direct, immediate impact on our daily lives, we end up going to the gym or nail salon instead.
So the only response I have is: Between now and the next election, whenever a town body makes a decision about school redistricting, the mill rate, or whether a big apartment complex can be built in your backyard, just shut your mouth. Your opinion does not matter. You have forfeited your right to be heard.
Earlier this week, we had another important event: Veterans Day. Westporters celebrated by not thinking about veterans.
Sure, it’s inconvenient to get to Town Hall on a Monday morning (even if it is a federal holiday). Of course, this is not a military town. Our wars today are being fought far away by service members who don’t generally come from places like Westport.
Our past wars were fought, in part, by people who do live here now, or once did. But besides a doughboy statue and a few plaques across from Town Hall, it’s easy to forget the fact that freedom is hard won. And even harder to keep.
Of course, not everyone ignored Veterans Day. That ceremony at Town Hall included Westport veterans from World War II on. Some were in their 90s; at least one is over 100. But youth was represented too. Staples High School senior Colin Corneck delivered a stirring address. He talked about family members who served and the inspiration provided by veterans who spoke to him four years ago, when he was a Bedford Middle School student.
Our schools do a good job inviting veterans to speak. Teachers and administrators make sure the next generation hears about the history and values of our military whenever possible, from the Greatest Generation. They won’t be around much longer, but the tradition of schoolwide assemblies and meetings should continue.
If they do, perhaps years from now — when today’s students are tomorrow’s parents — they will go to a Veterans Day ceremony at Town Hall, instead of yoga or a run.
But if we’ve missed the boat on our first two November holidays, we’ve got a chance to atone soon.
Thanksgiving is coming, and it’s almost impossible to bypass this one.
The tradition is so great that even if you’ve never cooked a turkey before, you figure out how to serve one. Even if you hate crowds, you get yourself and your kids to the parade in New York, or gather around the table with relatives you don’t even know how you’re related to. Even if you normally use your dining room only to pass through on your way to the kitchen, you bust out the best silverware and look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Even if you hate sports, you watch some random football game on TV.
After all, this is Thanksgiving. Not only that, it’s Thanksgiving in New England. No matter where you are from, no matter what you believe in (or don’t), this is one holiday you can’t ignore or screw up.
And after this holiday comes the holiday season. The next month is not Election Day. It’s not Veterans Day. It’s a full frontal assault from everywhere: merchants, the media, your kids, your parents. It’s a complex brew of marketing, expectations and traditions, with a little bit (or, occasionally, a lot) of religion thrown in.
It’s all followed by New Year’s Day. For over two decades, Westporters enjoyed First Night, then we stopped going. Now it’s just a memory.
So we’re back to where we began this column: What we do (or don’t do) on important days of the year.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.