The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.
To the editor:
A day in Croton last week began with a street dispute that led one shopper to question whether she should find a different salon and avoid patronizing Croton businesses so as to avoid having to deal with Croton anger. The day ended with an online dispute about leaf blowers that led one resident to say to a resident who disagreed with her: “[Y]ou are friends with my friends and you challenge me? Nice! Good night!”
The morning dispute got much less attention than the evening dispute, and there is a lesson there. The petty bickering that used to pass quickly between a handful of people is now a community-wide affair memorialized forever online.
In both cases, the type of disagreement which would in a prior time have remained at a level of polite discourse instead became escalated. Most troubling is the belief that you cannot have a difference of viewpoint between 2 neighbors of good will.
There have always been such disputes, and sometimes quite passionate. Just a few generations ago, the war in Vietnam and civil rights issues divided families. It is true that many people find Donald Trump and leafblowers to fall into the same sphere as teenagers drafted and sent off to get killed in a foreign jungle or peaceful citizens getting brutally beaten in Selma, but I don’t agree.
We need to stop making everything political. In 2013, Pajama Boy told us to grab a cup of Christmas cocoa and lecture our family about health insurance as they gathered around the tree to unwrap presents. We progressed in 2016 to de-friending online friends and cutting off contact with neighbors of differing political views. In 2018 siblings are not merely disagreeing over politics, they are doing political commercials for the candidate running against their own brother.
I don’t like leafblowers. I have never understood the point of blowing leaves rather than letting them decompose, and I especially don’t understand why people such as the Village of Croton landscapers blow leaves from the sidewalk alongside the Municipal Building into the middle of Old Post Road.
But some of my neighbors disagree, and so long as they don’t blow their leaves into the street or use their leafblower before the birds are even awake, I am willing to “leaf” well enough alone. I believe those neighbors to be wrong, but we get along well and I don’t regard their use of a leafblower as a moral failing. More importantly, I don’t demand that my friends shun the leafblowing neighbors.
Communities get reputations, and damaged reputations can take decades to repair. Croton is already the subject of ribbing by our surrounding communities. We have had a high-profile meltdown over a few flyers put up in the dark of night by some social misfit. We are in the middle of a series of public shaming sessions of our largest private employer because Croton chose to ram legislation down the throats of residents rather than try to build consensus and find a compromise. We anger neighboring communities with illegal “No Thru Traffic” signs. We pass meaningless resolutions in support of legislation in Albany and Washington, including anti-police legislation.
Everyone says that Croton is a small village. We should start acting like neighbors. There is nothing wrong with disagreement on issues. There is a lot wrong with driving shoppers out of our village, telling people that they are no longer our friend unless they shun people who use leafblowers, and being nasty at Village Board of Trustee meetings (both from the dais and from the audience) when people express a minority viewpoint.