Wednesday, March 10, 2004

of mouths opened in wisdom and in foolishness

Jan. Boston Globe Ideas article on town meetings:
Real democracy, Bryan insists, is what the ancient Athenians did -- citizens coming together under one roof to debate and resolve their problems face-to-face, not simply going to the polls to elect leaders. It's also what New Englanders do each year at town meetings across the region.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn [praised] the town meeting of Cavendish, the "sensible and sure process of grassroots democracy where the local population decides most of its problems on its own, not waiting for higher authorities"...H.L. Mencken, on the other hand, called town meetings the source of "some of the most idiotic decisions ever come to mortal man."
the legacy of town meetings explain[s] why New England is at or near the top of the nation in many measures of "civic capital" -- including social tolerance, voting rates, and charitable contributions.
[beware of reporters:]
"I have in my files hundreds of pictures of town meetings," [unwary person speaking to reporter] says. "Just pick one out at random and look at the people sitting there. You see -- I'm not sure I should say this, maybe you shouldn't quote me -- people with no teeth, you see fat people, you see rednecks, you see people in suits, L.L. Bean-types who just moved into town. You tell me they aren't `the People."'

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