Saturday, May 18, 2013

This One's For You

Edith Wilkinson 1927-2013

Thirty years ago my maiden speech to illustrious Amherst Town Meeting almost didn't happen.  I had taken the easy route to petition my government for grievances by collecting the ten signatures required to file a warrant article for the Annual Spring Town Meeting held in what was then called the "Junior High School."

My article requested town meeting "advise" the recreation department to stop unfairly competing against my karate school, Hampshire Gymnastics and the Amherst Ballet Center, the latter two businesses owned individuals who were also homeowners:  Thus their property tax payments (a burden even back then) were being used against them by competition on an unlevel playing field.

But when I checked in with moderator Bill Field he asked if I was a town meeting member, as only a town meeting member could move a motion.  Uh-oh.

A long-time, well-know Town Meeting member was standing directly behind me waiting to talk to the Moderator so I turned to him and asked if he would simply move my motion.  He shook his head side to side. Vigorously.

I retreated to the front row of the auditorium and asked another Town Meeting member that I recognized and she responded, "Absolutely not."  By now the august body was getting very close to reaching a quorum and opening for business -- err, I mean discussion -- so I started to panic.

Edith Wilkinson was Chair of the Select Board at the time and from her position at the head table had witnessed my two exchanges and the now panicked look on my face.    She came over and said, "What's wrong Mr. Kelley?"   After I briefly explained she said, "I will not support it, but I will move your motion."

Then she smiled and said "That's exactly what Town Meeting is all about."  Or as we say in journo school, "give voice to the voiceless."

I still remember the blank stare from the masses when I used the term "tax exempt entities" for government programs that consume tax money while for-profit business (a dirty word in Amherst 30 years ago) generate tax revenues.  Naturally my article was defeated overwhelmingly. 

Still ... if all Amherst Town Meeting members were as gracious and fair minded as Edie Wilkinson, maybe I would have been a lot less strident in my criticisms of the ancient institution over the past thirty years.  Maybe. 


Anonymous said...

She was a truly gracious woman. We miss her and her long-departed husband.

Dr. Ed said...

What strikes me is that Amherst of the 1970's and 1980's was a whole lot more "walking the walk" of its liberal ideals while Amherst today is a Liberal community that merely "talks the talk."

I'm told that after the bars closed in the 1970's, the then-UMass students (and now Town Meeting Members) would go back to campus en masse singing "Power to the People." Anyone care to venture a guess as to what would happen if a thousand or so UM kids did this today?

Voltaire never actually said it -- one of his friends actually used it as part of the eulogy at Voltaire's funeral, but the quote often attributed to him is "while I disagree with everything you have to say, I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Amherst in 1983 apparently believed in such liberal (small "l") principles -- Amherst in 2013 has become populated by leftist loons too intolerant to even be considered Liberals, let alone be considered liberals.

Much as the WW-I generation never really spoke much about the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the WW-II generation never spoke much of the horrors wrought by the National Socialists in Germany, Italy and Spain.

But much as the WW-I generation was always terrified of the flu, the WW-II generation was always terrified of "small-f" fascism. They would (and did) tolerate young people saying incredibly foolish things because they had seen what happened when efficiency replaced individualism.

Dr. Ed said...

Three other things that folks like to forget -- facts are pesky things:

1: The intellectual basis for the Holocaust started here in the US with the Eugenics Movement. This is where the idea of eliminating "inferior" races came from -- Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood to abort BLACK babies.

It was Oliver Wendall Holmes who wrote "three generations of imbeciles is enough" (Buck v. Bell) and authorized the involuntary surgical sterilization of the "feeble minded." At the Nuremburg Trials, Nazi Doctors explicitly cited Holmes ruling in Buck in their defense.

2: Adolph Hitler was democratically elected. He won what essentially was a fair & honest election -- and it would appear that a significant number of German Jews voted for him.

He promised to end the violence in the streets -- a promise he kept by first killing the Communists and then killing his own "Brownshirts."

3: The Nazis were welcomed into Austria - I have met Kitty Werthmann, I spoke with her personally at lunch and I believe she is telling the truth. This U-Tube video isn't quite as good as the speech I saw her give, but still worth watching.

Anonymous said...

Galton’s notions of race improvement spread quickly in the United States. American eugenics was divided into two major camps: negative and positive eugenics. Whereas Galton was predominantly a proponent of positive eugenics (which expected the healthiest and most successful individuals of a race to propagate good traits), the American scientific community aligned itself more closely with negative eugenics. Due to the classless nature of the American society, American negative eugenics were “non-elitist (and) democratic” in operation and encouraged occasional purges of the weakest members of society (Carlson 2001, p. 234). Funding was provided by the nation’s wealthiest and most educated men who were convinced of the necessity and importance of the research.

As is true of all new ideas, in order for collective action to occur, the ideas must first be perpetuated and validated. Not surprisingly, then, many institutions of higher education served as hotbeds of early eugenics research and experimentation. Land-Grant Universities, for example, were responsible for institutionalizing science curriculum for American schools, and earned the nickname “the people’s university” for their role in making scientific knowledge easily accessible to the public. (Glenna, Gollnick, and Jones 2007, p. 282). Land-Grant Universities, such as the state universities of Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina and West Virginia, provided an academic polish for the underdeveloped theory of eugenics.

Additionally, in the early 1900s eugenics instruction was integrated into the curriculum of other prominent colleges. The range of institutions included Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Purdue, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of California (Berkeley), New York University, Stanford, and even Alma College in Michigan, and Bates College in Maine—all of which either explicitly or implicitly wove eugenics instruction into their curricula. By 1914, over 40 institutions offered eugenics instruction (Cravens 1988). The ability of these institutions to recruit both professors and students to this new discipline was impressive. --Excerpt from

Nowhere is Margaret Sanger mentioned. Ed, I have lost all respect for your comments when you attempt to link such a notion with a simple homage to a great lady -- Edith Wilkinson. That's what your off topic diatribe does, link diametrically opposed ideas.

Anonymous said...

Ed, stop for a moment. Take a deep breath, and then ask yourself... Why? Why are you compelled to do this? Is it because you're desperate for people to think you're smart? Unfortunately, anyone with access to Google can instantly find the unattributed source of "your" writings, so that plan is bound to fail.

Yet you must realize that. So why?