Friday, January 31, 2014

It's not the GWB...

Okay.  The bullying I experienced doesn't rise to the level of the George Washington Bridge scandal.  It looks like "small stuff" to everyone but me.
I take my moral compass from the things I learned in the New Hampshire Leadership Series program.  One of the things that really stuck with me was the testimony of a woman with profound physical and sensory disabilities.  She said, "I can live without arms and legs.  I can live without vision or hearing.  I can't live without friends."  To me, that is the final test in life.  Who will run to your side when you are in trouble?  Who will change your day from going through the motions of being merely alive to living an adventure?  Who will hug you and love you when you are old?
Someone spread a lie about me.  It was published in the local paper.  Some people recognized the lie for what it was, but others don't know me well or the accusation struck them with fear.  Someone wrote a letter to the editor that insisted I wanted Rindge to become like a city in Massachusetts.  It wasn't based on anything I said or wrote.  It was fabricated from thin air and it was designed to hurt me and my reputation.  To a "reasonable person" accusing me of wanting Rindge to become an urban area full of business, traffic and activity probably doesn't seem like a case of libel.  What is the harm? 
But, it HAS hurt me.  Friends have looked at me with sad eyes to say how much they love Rindge's small town feel.  As if I don't!!! 
Another person wrote a letter to the editor decrying that treatment of "transplants" as he referred to people who weren't born in Rindge.  It was very nice, but it really didn't answer the question of my rights being trampled.
I will admit that I put myself in the public eye to speak out against the involvement of the John Birch Society in the local politics of our town.  We are discussing the question of whether we want to create a new town center that ties to Franklin Pierce University and revitalizes West Rindge Village.  Several of the people who live in West Rindge Village are against this idea.  They have fair arguments.  The problem is that they involved the John Birch Society in the debate.  This has shifted the debate from a local issue to a "tin-foil hat conspiracy theory" about UN Agenda 21.
It is beyond ridiculous, but there are people buying it. 
Their moment of victory came when the same person who wrote the libelous letter about me, proclaimed in an interview that people will vote with him on several petition articles (that will hurt our town) because he's been to several meetings of 50 to 60 people where no one spoke up for the Charrette plan.
I dared to speak up because I don't own a business that might be boycotted if I gave my reasons for supporting the idea.  I spoke up because I am not paid by taxpayers and speaking up might risk my position.  I am just a little old retired lady whose life is about contributing to the life of the community and spending time with my friends. 
We moved to Rindge in 1999.  I admit that when we first moved here, I was drawn to the converted cottage because of the shared beach front on Lake Monomonac.  I was living in Groton, MA when my parents passed away in 1997 and 1998.  It seemed the only place I could find solace was out on the water in my kayak.  The place on the lake helped me get through the next few years of missing them.  I also joined the Rindge Woman's Club and the Rindge Veteran's Association.  I was working full time and going to grad school at night, so my interactions with the town were limited, but I loved every minute I spent on town projects.  I also volunteered time helping to assemble the "Rindge Connection" newsletter that went out each month. 
In 2003, we decided the converted cottage was just too much work for us (after my husband's second heart attack) and we were on the market for a place that would be easier to maintain.  We only looked in Rindge.  I felt my heart and my roots were here. 
My involvement with the town deepened.  I helped establish our Energy Commission and wrote grants that secured over $50,000 in federal funding for energy audits and projects to save energy at municipal buildings.  Rindge is my home and I give it my all.
I kayak on our lakes, I'm a member of the Historical Society and relish stories about the history of Rindge.  I'm a proud owner of Stearns.  I snowshoe and x-c ski at Converseville and ice skate at Wellington.  I helped organize Memorial Day for several years.
And, heck, even if I was born in Massachusetts, I served from 1975 to 1979 in the New Hampshire Air National Guard!  I'm also a graduate of UNH.
I was "at home" in the quiet peacefulness of our woods, lakes and small celebrations of community.  I feel that hateful letter ripped this peace and feeling of acceptance from my very being.  I am no longer invited to parties I used to attend.  People don't volunteer to be on committees I chair.  The silver lining is that true friends have stood by my side through this, but I can see that, even in them, there's the suspicion that "where there's smoke, there's fire" lurking just below the surface.
So there's probably no lawyer who will take my case because you can't put a monetary value on friendships.  And, I suppose, I made a target of myself by speaking out and writing a "Viewpoint" article to refute their claims about HUD.  I just think that making an example of me this way is a form of bullying and has a chilling effect on free speech.   

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