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Dear Hartford Residents,
Happy Memorial Day Weekend. Everywhere in America this weekend folks will be visiting cemeteries or memorials and holding family gatherings and picnics. We hope you, your friends and family can make the best of a difficult situation and find a way to safely be together and have fun.
This week, we would like to reflect on the Coronavirus outbreak and its potential role in fanning community conflict. The five-village structure and economic diversity of our Town has sometimes made Hartford vulnerable to conflict. It was once between members of the Selectboard, between the School Board and the Selectboard, and between these Boards and different communities within the Town. Then, after a period of relative calm, Hartford encountered choppy waters again in 2019 focussing on immigration.
More recently, the convergence of remaining aspects of these tensions with the stresses and isolation of the Coronavirus outbreak and the resignations of two highly respected members of the Hartford Team (Town Manager and Selectboard Member) created an unnerving moment. Could rising tensions hamper our ability to respond effectively?
To help ensure it won’t, it may help to reflect on the stress we are under. To a greater or lesser extent, we are experiencing the effects of enormous disruption. We are experiencing uncertainty for our futures. Some of us are experiencing the stresses of financial loss, and fear for the wellbeing of ourselves and those we love. Referencing this, Therapist, Christina Olivera writes “We (all of us) are currently going through a collective traumatic experience. Trauma is often thought of as “too much, too fast” . . . which is exactly what’s happening. Of course you are exhausted. Of course you are afraid. Of course you are overwhelmed.” If what she says is true, this collective trauma could be expected to exacerbate tensions as it surfaces in the behaviors of “fight, flight or freeze” in Hartford’s municipal body politic.
To lessen this, it is important to exercise an extra helping of gentleness and care for one another in public and online discussion. It’s okay to disagree and discussions have great value, but personal attacks are never productive and can be especially hurtful in times like these.
Instead, we would do well to celebrate each other, and particularly to celebrate what we are doing together to bring the rate of spread down to some of the lowest levels in the US. The zero positive result of the most recent batch of 700 tests in Vermont is a collective achievement which has resulted from the daily efforts of so many. For example, in three short weeks, mask makers and wearers have created a pro-mask culture that keeps us from spreading germs far and wide when we speak, cough and breathe in public. Our praise should also go out to all who have painstakingly forgone social engagements or who are simultaneously working and caring for children from home. These efforts have been remarkable. Though it may be tempting to relax these practices as the weather warms, we must remember that the Coronavirus is a highly opportunistic foe.
Special kudos also goes out to the many front-line workers who have accepted personal risk to keep the community supplied with necessities in gas stations, supermarkets, convenience stores, and venues too many to list. These workers are local heroes.
In other local news, the Selectboard has issued a call for applicants to be considered for appointment to the Selectboard vacancy created when Dennis Brown stepped down. Dennis put the politeness in Hartford politics in a way that has not been equalled in recent years. He has been consistently fair minded and probing in all of his work and we know we speak for every member of the Board when we say that his departure from the Board is a loss for the Town. We were delighted to see him throw his hat back in the ring by rejoining the Planning Commission at the very next meeting. Thank you Dennis for your past and continued service to the Town!
We will constitute the Town Manager Search Committee at our next Selectboard Meeting on Tuesday, May 26 at 6:00 PM. We encourage all who can to reach out to the Selectboard with any questions or comments you may have.
On this Memorial Day, we hope we will all have a moment to stop and pause and keep in our hearts those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.