The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 19, 2001



Town elections: start thinking now

We here at the Mosquito join those who are concerned about the downturn in volunteerism, or what you might call community participation in the life of Carlisle. Thus, in the year ahead, we will be focusing from time to time on the role volunteers play in Carlisle.

This week we would like to address the topic of town elections, which are held each year in the spring. Last year, candidates for town office were running unopposed. For several years before that there were no more than two candidates competing for any office at election time. To correct this problem we suggest that possible candidates start thinking now about running for office, not a month or two before the election.

Candidates interested in running for town office should start attending board meetings the selectmen, planning board, board of health, or any other elected committee of special interest. Speak to board members and see what the job entails. The most important thing is to start thinking about it now and not wait until February or March, when there is so little time left to find out what the position entails or to make your approach to the job known to the voters.

Most candidates in recent elections have been incumbents. Wouldn't it be nice to see some of the newer faces in town sitting on some of the boards? Let's hope we won't read the following headline that appeared on the front page of the April 6, 2001 Carlisle Mosquito: "No contested races for town boards this year, so far."


To learn the truth

It is a fact of life that most of what we know about the world comes to us not from our own personal experience but as second-hand knowledge, the perceptions of others brought to us on TV and the Internet, in newspapers, magazines, and books, and through lectures, sermons, discussions and gossip. Reflecting on the human capacity for misconstruction, misstatement and misunderstanding, not to mention deliberate falsehood, one might conclude that what we regard as truth rests on a rather rickety foundation.

Consider how easily erroneous impressions gain currency. In the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, we heard that additional car bombs had exploded elsewhere in Washington and that there were as many as four additional planes hijacked and presumably headed toward other targets. Such reports were soon retracted, but the fact that they were broadcast at all illustrates the point. Or, closer to home, think of the misunderstanding of Anne Marie Brako's trip to Germany, as recounted in letters to the Mosquito. In her original article, she expressed her reservations (legitimately derived, it seemed to me) about traveling to Germany, but then went on to describe what turned out to be a pleasant journey. Nevertheless, she was taken to task in a couple ofletters for having admitted her initial prejudices, which offended the letter-writers.

Think of all the issues on which we try to have informed opinions. We hear about reports signed by dozens of reputable scientists that global warming is real, caused primarily by human activity, which should be drastically modified to avoid catastrophe. On the other hand, equally reputable scientists point out that global temperatures fluctuate normally and that the earth in the past has been much hotter than it is now due to natural causes. To them, the evidence that we are headed for catastrophe is based on computer models whose validity is open to question. For my part, I simply don't know. Or again, to take an example close to home, I can't make head nor tail of the rights and wrongs in the Berry Corner Lane contretemps despite Seba Gaines' heroic attempt to explain the dispute in the Mosquito.

In spite of the difficulties, I believe most Americans have a reasonably good grasp on reality. I have little doubt that the misunderstandings I have noted will get straightened out. We are blessed in this country with institutions that foster the free flow of information and ideas. The freedom itself means that a good deal of erroneous and misleading information gets bruited about, but the mechanisms that most people use to sort wheat from chaff work pretty well: consider the source, consider whether it comports with other experience, consider motivations that might produce an intent to mislead. The people who bring us the news try not to report rumor and falsehoods, and they quickly become discredited if they do very much of it.

This is in striking contrast to the world that Osama bin Laden has constructed for himself and his followers. Not only must he believe fervently in his view of the misdeeds of the West, but he must disbelieve in a vast array of evidence that Americans are, for the most part, people going about innocent lives, who at their best work for a better life for people all over the world and at their worst are indifferent but not hostile. His views cannot stand the free flow of ideas. God bless America.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito