Leadership, Passionate, and…

Bob’s former Home Page Essay; October 7 – 18, 2019

“I am always wanting a person who has a lot of energy and interest to do the work of the People to be on the Board.”

Enfield Supervisor Beth McGee, interviewed with her husband, Darren,The Made of Clay Report, WRFI Radio, October 6, 2019.

Make no mistake.  Supervisor McGee was not referencing me.  The Supervisor has chosen to endorse other candidates for Enfield Councilperson, including her husband.  McGee holds that prerogative.  We each do.  But should you elect me to our Town Board this November 5th, I promise that I, too, will exercise that heightened level of energy and enthusiasm that the Supervisor so prizes.  I seek to become part of the team, a diverse team, a responsive team, a governing team.  Promise: I’ll be a Board member who represents you—each and every one of you— tirelessly, and with the maximum level of energy and interest it takes to meet Enfield’s demanding and varied challenges in the years ahead.

Back in early-March, Supervisor McGee and I found ourselves at the same Saturday seminar, one designed to teach effective campaign skills.  I had not yet decided to run for public office.  The incumbent Supervisor was at the time seeking re-election unopposed, as she is now.  The facilitator, a semi-notable former office-seeker herself, asked each of us to describe ourselves in just three adjectives.  We had only seconds to script our lives.  When my turn came, I instinctively blurted out—in a less-than-eloquent sequence—my thumbnail persona:

Leadership… Passionate… Assertive.

That last adjective brought our facilitator to attention.  “Oh!” she answered with a touch of unease (alarm?)  You could tell her trainees seldom utter that line.  Daring; a bit edgy.  Outside- the-box.  An expression of bravery, of self-confidence; a word perhaps to be embraced; or maybe, by some, feared.

Webster defines “assertive” as being “positive or confident in a persistent way.”  And yes, that is I.  When I believe I am right, I will soldier onward; argue my point; stand my ground; take my hits.  Just ask my sister.  She’s known her brother for more than six decades.  And she’s witnessed him assert himself many times, without apology, usually to advocate for what’s noble and what’s just.

Some equate “assertiveness” with “aggressiveness.”  Not true.  There’s a distinction.  Aggressiveness is assertiveness’ darker flip-side; the low-road to be avoidedBy dictionary definition, aggressiveness is “starting fights or quarrels; (being) ready or willing to take issue or engage in direct action; militant.”  I’d see it as throwing a punch for the punch’s own sake.  No, that is not I.  Bob Lynch knows himself.  An argument without a worthy purpose is an argument not worth its cost.  It just becomes self-satisfying rancor; wasted, worthless, and destructive.

Where our Town Board meets

One of my fellow Councilperson candidates—I never use the word opponent or rival—has chosen to criticize me with words that are both hurtful and inaccurate.  This candidate, without citing any examples, has alleged I harbor “aggression issues [that] have no place in government.” I’m said to have “behaved in ways [this person finds] divisive and unhealthy for our town.” But this candidate does not know me as I know myself.  Nor, perhaps, does this candidate fully appreciate the traditions of American Democracy.

Ironically, this candidate points with pride to his or her own past involvement as an environmental activist.  But to that point:  Was not advancing Enfield’s anti-fracking ban of nearly a decade ago also assertive?  Are not today’s critics of commercial wind and solar power similarly assertive?  Advancing societal improvement, whether it be environmentalism, civil rights, or the rule of law, carries with it both rewards and risks.  Sometimes public ridicule from those in power; at other times, arrest or jail—or worse—is a price worth paying.  Read the words of the late Dr. King.

Our nation’s Founders never viewed reasoned argument as unhealthy for a Democracy.  To the contrary, they saw it as essential.  Had they chosen to muzzle dissent of the kind my fellow candidate has criticized in me, we’d today have Elizabeth as our Queen and Boris as our Prime Minister.  No, it’s important—indeed, vital—that the citizen speak up when he or she senses something is wrong.  Do so with civility, when possible.  But in the end, when assertiveness and kind pleasantries stand as mutually-exclusive opposites, assertiveness must prevail.  Speak out.  Take the arrows.

With all due respect to my fellow candidate, one whom I may be politely sitting across the table from next year, the distinction between principled activism and unwelcomed dissent may lie, at its core, in which side commands super-majority control of the Enfield Town Board.

But back to where I began, co-opting the words of our Supervisor: Yes, I do hold the “energy and interest to do the work of the People.”  Perhaps each of our Councilperson candidates does.  So look to the issues. Look also to the open, welcoming, and inclusive Town Government I want Enfield to exemplify.  It’s a government where nobody’s opinion is out-of-order; where disagreement and dissent are encouraged, not disparaged; where no one is a King; and where we who sit on the Town Board realize that we do not necessarily have all of the answers.  Rather, maybe you have them.  It’s a Government where, above all else, we, the Town Board members, current and future, understand that the people of this Town… that’s you… are our bosses.  It’s not the other way around.

Yes.  We are One Enfield!

Bob Lynch