To the Editor:
I read your article regarding Waretown’s dilemma regarding a reduction in funding from the state. It seems to me this has become a problem facing others here in Ocean County. I’d like to weigh in with some thoughts.
You are not a “Warrior Mama,” or a “Papa” either. But you could be.
Restoring cultural idealism is the most effective way of creating change in a community. Sending busloads of people to the State House the day our politicians vote on a measure is a desperate last-ditch effort. You may feel like a "Mama Warrior," but you entered the fight after the battle has been lost.
To not lose my audience at this early junction, I will note that what was done this week in Toms River, was a display of tremendous dedication and heart from those involved. Every person should be proud of the effort they gave. I applaud your activism and wish you luck.
Our movements fail because we have a severe reactionary approach to political participation in this country. We only show up when we are afraid to lose something, but nobody wants to fight to keep what we have, while we still have it. Everybody has a voice, but only those who speak are heard. However, shouting and fussing, while reciting flat and uninspired data are not effective means to demonstrate.
Just think about the last you saw somebody protesting something on T.V. They always look so silly. Holding signs and chanting in a forced chorus. The only reason it even makes the news is that it is a spectacle, and it makes good television. Now, it’s true that every circus needs a clown, but there is way more to the show then wearing a funny hat.
If you want to be heard, here's what you should change.
First, stay away from Facebook groups. One of the worst tools we utilize to promote a cause are Facebook groups. Although they are useful for sharing ideas and organizing events, Facebook groups are breeding grounds, rather, cesspools for non-experts who want to listen to one side of an argument and then pat themselves on the back for parroting someone else's ideas. Be original, be passionate, don't be a parrot. Do your own research, and be your own voice.
Warning! Some Facebook groups create safe havens for the suppression of free speech and thwart the growth of open discussion. Most pages enforce intellectually dishonest community standards. Generally, only one side of the argument is presented, and the minority opinion is shouted down.
If you are audacious enough to post a difference of opinion, you may be at best ostracized and bullied, or removed from the group altogether. You should always be wary of organizations that are unwilling to hear the other sides' arguments. (Hey Google, define fascism.)
Most importantly, we need to cultivate change from the ground up. The people's voice is meant to be represented at the highest level of government and down through the ranks. Not the other way around. Policy is supposed to be inspired by culture. Unfortunately, our culture is broken.
The removal of pillars like the church and other community based social establishments like The Boy Scouts have paralyzed our efforts to set and maintain family values, and a community-driven culture. This leaves us a community that comes together only in times of crisis, while the collected commonality is left to fray in times of peace.
Family and community values need to be instilled in our children's home from a young age. We, as parents, also need to trust that they are sending them into a community that is going to help maintain that value system when they leave the house. This also teaches our children to take our principles with them when they leave our communities. After all, if they end up being our representatives in Trenton or Washington, they will already have a strong connection with our virtues.
Finally, it is crucial that we learn to understand each other's values, and find common ground and keep our community standards in check. In order to do so, we need to get away from our social media posts and get out to our social functions. We have to bring back family dinners, block parties, community center events, religious services and refreshment hours. (If not only for the cookies.)
By the time you hear about a bill coming up in committee, the wheels have already been turning for a long time. You have to stay informed. Most people could really use a refresher on how our government is supposed to work and how a bill is passed. There are countless fun videos on YouTube to help you with that. Just look up School House Rock, and work your way forward from there.
If you don’t want Trenton to make decisions for you, take ownership of your community. Join the PTA, attend the town hall meetings, and get involved. Join the fire department or volunteer at the little league snack stand. Fight like hell for this daily with the same passion you have while mobbing the statehouse in the eleventh hour.
Do this, and you can expect to see the change you want. Do this because this is what the other side is doing.
Andrew Gibson, Barnegat Resident