Friday, December 16, 2005
There's got to be a better way
This week the Police Chief Search Committee created an uproar at the Selectmen's meeting when they announced an outside choice instead of the interim chief who has served in Carlisle for 20 years and enjoys widespread popularity. Both Glen McKiel, Police Chief of Warren, Massachusetts, and Carlisle's Acting Chief John Sullivan have strong credentials and could do a good job, but either will be hampered by the ill will created by our our flawed selection process.
As Dave Ives' article, "Search Committee picks Glen McKiel for next Police Chief; Selectmen delay vote" on page 1 and the committee's report on page 4 show, the Search Committee carefully advertised and interviewed candidates. While it is understandable that the committee would keep initial discussions private to preserve candidate confidentiality, they should have included public sentiment in their deliberations. Why not share the credentials of Sullivan and McKiel with the town sooner and seriously consider public input? Even if the committee's recommendation had then been the same, the public reaction might have been more positive, or at least more understanding.
An audience member asked what message we are sending to other town employees when 20 years of town-supervised training and commended service is not deemed sufficient. The Selectmen may want a new committee to research damage- control strategies and suggest modifications to the Search Committee procedures.
In order to be effective, the new Police Chief needs the support of the community. No matter who is finally chosen by the Board of Selectmen, let's move forward and welcome him.
A simple truth
I've been trying as hard as I can this past week to ignore the current media brouhaha surrounding the so-called "Battle against Christmas." To tell the truth, I'm sick and tired of the whole Culture Wars. Why is it so difficult for honest and sincere people of good faith to get along? This question has been the inspiration for a great deal of personal soul-searching on my part, since I certainly have more than my fair share of strong (some might even say outspoken) opinions based on values and principles which I hold sacred, and which I compromise only at the sacrifice of my own integrity. Yet I also like to think that the principles on which my beliefs are based: values like empathy, compassion, justice, mercy, tolerance, equality, forgiveness ... are somehow universal in nature, which should make the "Truth" of them self-evident and undeniable.
Unfortunately, even a "self-evident" truth can sometimes seem elusive. I'm reminded of the story of the five blind philosophers examining an elephant. One felt the elephant's leg and declared that an elephant is like a tree. The second felt the elephant's flank and determined that an elephant was like a wall, while the third touched the elephant's trunk and concluded that an elephant was like a snake. The philosopher who examined the elephant's tail believed an elephant was like a rope, while the last philosopher touched the tusk of the animal and announced that an elephant is really like a spear. All of them were correct according to the limited evidence of their own experience. But none had fully comprehended the true nature of an elephant.
Learning to respect the limits of our own experience, while at the same time respecting the integrity of the experiences of others, is an important step in the process of learning how to get along. People don't always have to see everything exactly the same way in order to identify points of agreement and potential cooperation, and also points of disagreement which can be discussed politely without necessarily being resolved. The more important the belief, the more important this quality of civility becomes. Ultimately Truth itself is its own best evidence, and doesn't need a lot of behind-the-scenes arm twisting in order to get its point across. Or as my mother often told me: "If you're right you shouldn't have to argue, and if you're wrong you should know better than to try."
The holiday season, by whatever name we choose to call it, is a time when families and communities come together in the hope of renewing connections and strengthening relationships, while celebrating the passage of another year, and the progress of the heavens from a season of darkness into a season of light. Regardless of whether we light the candles of a menorah, or kindle a yule log on the hearth, or adorn trees and houses with brightly colored electric bulbs, our common humanity is a greater bond than any ideological disagreements which may divide us. When we lose sight of this simple truth, we also lose touch with that essential quality of life which makes us human: spiritual beings created in the image of God as brothers and sisters to one another.
Or at least that's how it looks to me. And may we all feel blessed, to the very depths of our souls, in this season of generosity and gratitude. Happy Holidays everyone!
© 2005 The