Do we have the courage to speak up in support of democracy?

To the Editor:

Last fall, a number of Rensselaerville residents, incensed by the display of a Confederate flag in Medusa, appeared before the town board. We asked them to make a public statement condemning the flag; they refused, insisting that this was merely a disagreement between neighbors.

The board is not responsible, its members told us, for mediating petty disputes. Supervisor John Dolce was thanked by the mother of the young man who continues to display his flag. His rights, presumably, had been protected by their actions. And since then, the number of flags has multiplied.

To some, this isn’t necessarily as terrible as it seems. It is, after all, a useful visual reminder that in our community there are those who celebrate racism, who embrace hatred. And it is important, in these times, to know who those people are.

But I wonder, now, if things have changed, Does this board regret its decision to not speak out, now that we have seen video of last Wednesday’s Capitol rioters raising the Confederate flag in front of Senate chambers?

It seems odd that the same councilmen who insisted that there is no relationship between politics and the Confederate flag — Lane Stannard is celebrating history, albeit a racist and violent history, and that is his right — ignore the fact that Trump flags were flying alongside those Dixie flags.

When I returned to the town board last fall and implored our board to not let this issue end with an ineffective statement that did little to address the divisions in our community, Councilman Jason Rauf told me that he was “done discussing it.”

What now, Rensselaerville, especially in light of the editorial in The Enterprise last week [“In local government, democracy will flourish or fail,” Jan. 7, 2021]? Do we have the courage to speak up in support of democracy, in support of equality, in reverence to truth and facts over conspiracy theories and outright lies?

Will we demand accountability from our board, as stated in the Enterprise’s editorial last week? And, of equal importance, will we provide the necessary feedback to the board members, so that they can transparently govern, informed by our demands to uphold certain principles? 

Or do we just continue to look the other way?

April M. Roggio


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