Westport 4/10

My handy dandy Oxford dictionary tells me that the word "community" comes from the Latin "communis," which in turn came from adding the prefix "con," meaning "with" or "together," to the root "mu-," meaning "bind." (I was surprised that "unus," or "one," didn't come into it, but life's full of surprises.) This suggests that a community is a group of people who are bound together in some way.

It also suggests that any community can continue to exist only as long as the people who make it up continually reaffirm the ties that bind them together, rather than affirming the forces that threaten to pull them apart.

In light of these thoughts, I have a few observations to make on the recent round of e-mails that have been circulating as part of our public debate on the school budget. If you'd like to be added to the lists, e-mail me at the above address and I'll do my best to get your address in there. I'm not exactly sure how I got there myself, so I can't promise anything, but I know the writers-as you probably do, too.

Predictably, there have been a few testy exchanges between the defenders of the current budget approach and those who would like to see greater cuts. Like many readers, I'm sure, I was dismayed at the suggestion by one or two supporters of the current budget picture that those who question the budget are "outsiders" who ought to go somewhere else. Also like many of you, I reject the idea (hinted at by the other side) that those who pay more in taxes somehow ought to have a greater say in how the school spends "their" money than those with less valuable property.

The fault line between "locals" and "summer people" is our deepest social divide, and I suppose it's inevitable that such divisive sentiments will be expressed in the heat of debate (even though it's hardly clear to me how far these categories really apply to the situation). But e-mails from both sides since then show a remarkable trend. Instead of turning towards greater divisiveness, both sides seem to have stepped back toward civility and respect, toward a genuine willingness to hear what the other side has to say.

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