The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 11, 2009

Opinions

Vacation’s over

As the second week of school draws to a close, many families with children are still getting used to catching the school bus and juggling after-school lessons, sports teams and homework. September is also when town boards and committees gear up for work on many fronts. Town finances will be a hot topic again this year.

The Selectmen, Finance Committee (FinCom) and other town officials have their plates full as they try to create a balanced budget for next year in the face of the start of a three-year spike in Carlisle’s share of the high school operating costs. Added to that large, but temporary hurdle, are the long-term challenges of financing proposed building projects for both the Carlisle School and the regional high school. The Board of Selectmen (BOS) and FinCom will be discussing these issues on September 24 with their counterparts from Concord and the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Financial Director Larry Barton asked to reconvene the Special Committee for Long-Term Financial Planning that met a few years ago. Barton wants the group to revise the town’s budget forecast in light of current information on the school building projects. FinCom member Jerry Lerner called for “radical ideas” such as merging departments, or regionalization of government services to cut expenses. BOS Chair Tim Hult suggested forming a new task force to look into permanent structural changes. He thought the task force might help to separate the discussion from the annual budget process.

In the same vein, the Carlisle School Committee is looking for ways to hold down school expenses. Chair Chad Koski says they are considering rehiring the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) consultants for additional advice on streamlining the school administration. Last spring the school committee made their decision to drop a superintendency union proposal based on NESDEC research and recommendations.

Meanwhile, the position of school business manager has remained unfilled since Heidi Zimmerman’s departure in April. Koski notes that the position should not be filled until decisions are made on any administrative reorganization. However, the paperwork and negotiations involved in the building project and FY11 budget planning offer strong motivation for sorting things out soon.

Sounds like Carlisle’s students aren’t the only ones who can look forward to plenty of math homework in the coming months. ∆

The benefits of hindsight?

Let me add a different and personal point of view to the recent veteran’s memorial replacement discussions. Like so many American youth in the mid-sixties who were either drafted or (for whatever reason) enlisted, I volunteered to serve in the Army pretty much for all the reasons that the US Army advertises to this day. In 1966, the war in southeast Asia was still a bit of a geo-political game (remember the ‘domino theory’?). In America, we thought we had stopped the Communists in Korea, Chairman Mao was a global socio-political headache and here in the USA we were very xenophobic, proud of our ‘can-do’ military might and rather unsophisticated about our sense of geography. So education benefits, adventure, and a chance to ‘see the world’ were, just out of high school, very enticing and with nothing on my academic radar at the moment, I decided to enlist. I had never heard of the draft board, did not know where Vietnam was and most of my older brothers had been in the service at one time or another and seemed to have survived pretty admirably. What had I to lose? As it turns out, quite a bit, starting with my incredible naiveté. Had I grown up in a major city instead of rural Vermont with a sheltered boarding school education, I might have been better prepared for the events that followed.

Suffice it to say, I am not a peacenik, per se. We were right to fight many of our earlier wars and the men and women who served in those wars served gallantly and selflessly, without doubt. We should never forget the service of those who fell in brave battles in earlier days. Suffice it to say also, that war, any war, is a dirty business and sometimes brings out the best but, often, the worst in those who have to participate. And the war in Vietnam did that in spades.

For me, the war in Southeast Asia was a turning point that has been impossible to turn away from. It has produced a generation of men and women with vastly different experiences thanks to the myopic misunderstandings of the Departments of Defense and State and the ill-born rhetoric and fear-mongering of the White House and their shills. It has produced a generation of men and women who either did or did not serve and who have spent a lifetime trying to justify or feel better about that decision and trying to make up for it. In my experience, there is more than enough guilt to go around and it has produced both an electorate and talking heads who are distrustful, cynical, often mean-spirited and with misplaced priorities. The ‘Never Forget’ bumper sticker has been more potent than the POW-MIA movement ever imagined.

The US Army did all that it promised me. Four years later (three in Southeast Asia) I did receive the promised education benefits, I did ‘see the world’ and I certainly had an adventure. But my experience with the enemy was not the experience that most veterans had. I never met the enemy on the field of battle. Nonetheless, I remain keenly aware that the reprehensible acts I committed as an immature and unsophisticated young man served no one in the end and left thousands in central Laos (who had never seen an American or an airplane) in worse than dire straits. I left the service ashamed, deeply distrustful of hierarchical organizations, knowing that the apparent good intentions of some are, in fact, duplicitous and that doing the right thing sometimes comes back to bite one hard. My name on the veteran’s memorial in my home town did nothing to assuage my personal disappointment and frustrations but it did make my family feel better about my absence. With all due respect to the men, women and families who lost lives, loves, limbs and minds, war is a terrible thing and the losses can not be calculated in a lifetime. Hardware erection and the elimination of the draft does little to lift the pall from the losses we, as a nation, have and will suffer for at least the next generation. We have not yet begun to feel the pain of our latest military adventures. While I respect the service of so many who went to war wittingly or by dint of an unlucky number, I find little nobility in armed combat, can take no joy in a brotherhood born of common misery and, selfishly, find memorializing by the well-intentioned a little difficult.

 

 

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