Kevin Lake: Demonstrating the world as we wish it to be

Downtown Northampton


Published: 05-14-2024 4:55 PM

When former City Council president Bill Dwight wrote a column recently to explain the present school funding situation Northampton, I was grateful that someone had put in the time to find and present the facts, the numbers and the history. It’s not a situation that any of us want, but it’s the one we’ve got, and it is important to understand it and wrestle with it.

A few days later, on successive days, there were two Gazette columns that referred to Mr. Dwight and others who are pointing out those facts, those numbers and that history as “cranky,” and as “Chicken Littles” who are using “fear tactics.”

I write today because I don’t want to see name calling and disparagement take the place of fact-based debate in Northampton.

After my family returned to Northampton following three years in Albany, I wrote a guest column in this paper that described how, as a long-term resident and someone who just moved here with fresh eyes, I was so deeply appreciative of the web of people who make our city what it is. Among others, this web includes our elected officials and the people on the 30 volunteer municipal committees and commissions. I described this web of people as “Northampton’s good soul.”

I once sat in a lecture with Howard Zinn where he said: “In our own behavior, we can demonstrate the world as we wish it to be.” Especially in our public discussions, we have to recognize that our words affect the norms and the spirit of our community. Sustaining Northampton’s “good soul” requires that we, as another columnist wrote last Thursday, “Start with kindness, accuracy and respect.”

We all know that, especially on the national stage, there are those who are happy to, in their own behavior, demonstrate a world where those who disagree with us are to be disparaged.

Here in Northampton, here in our home, we can be better than that.

Kevin Lake