If you could redesign society from scratch, what would it look like? How would you distribute wealth and power? Would you make everyone equal or not? How would you define fairness and equality? And — here’s the kicker — what if you had to make those decisions without knowing who you would be in this new society?
The above method of thinking is known as the “veil of ignorance,” an incredibly useful tool for elected officials to use when trying to determine the fairness, or even morality, of any given decision they make. Government leaders, the ones who we elect to make those important decisions for us, frequently avoid this process, making their decisions based on self-interest, self-dealing, or what party officials instruct them to do. More often than not, these decisions (which tend to impact certain individuals disproportionately more than others) are made based on the recommendation of advisors or fellow party leaders, without any semblance of individualized thought or deliberation. Such flimsy decision-making becomes even more prevalent when your elected officials are of the same party and critical thinking takes a back seat to political expedience. While decisions made in this fashion may appeal to some, they tend to leave many others behind.
For too long our Township Council has left many behind when it comes to inclusion and acceptance. At an open meeting in June, I asked the Council to raise the rainbow flag in recognition of LGBTQ Pride Month and stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ community. What did the Council do? It decided to take no action. Do other municipalities in Morris County raise the LGBTQ flag, or otherwise formally recognize June as Pride Month? Yep. Mendham, Madison, Parsippany, Mount Olive and Morris Township all do, just to name a few.
When Randolph's Indian community formally requested the issuance of a proclamation recognizing Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, what did our Township Council do? It decided to take no action.
When I, along with my fellow running mates Jeanette Hernandez and David Timpanaro requested the Township Council to create a permanent standing committee to address and institute educational programs on the prevalence of racism, bigotry and unconscious bias in the community, what was the response from our Township Council? It again decided to take no action.
Are we seeing a pattern? In deciding to do absolutely nothing, it is safe to say that not a single member of the all-Republican Township Council bothered to engage in “veil of ignorance” thinking. Did any one of them ask themselves how their decision to do nothing would have impacted them if they were a member of the LGBTQ community, a Hindu, or a person of color? Or did they simply retreat to the standard groupthink and hive-mind mentality that has permeated their decision-making on such issues for years? I think the results (or lack thereof) provide the answers to these questions.
The residents of Randolph deserve more than leaders whose idea of acceptance and inclusion are empty platitudes. Words are easy. What this township deserves are leaders of action, leaders who are ready, willing and able to take affirmative steps toward outward and open acceptance and inclusion of every member of our community. David, Jeanette and I are those leaders. As I have said before, and will continue to say: Randolph deserves no less.