To the editor:
My husband and I have lived in Lanesborough for three years. My name is Lauren, his name is Yuchao. We have two young children.
We recently attended the Lanesborough Annual Town Meeting. We do not have much direct experience with local government, but are engaged citizens and want to learn more. We are committed to anti-racism and dismantling white supremacy in the U.S, and believe that active participation in the democratic process is a key strategy in creating a more equitable world for our children.
What we experienced at the Lanesborough Annual Town Meeting was, at best, democracy for some. Democracy for a very select few. The meeting proceeded as scheduled, with social distancing measures in place. This was despite a very reasonable motion to delay the meeting or work within existing structures to hold a virtual meeting, the rationale being that more residents would then have the opportunity to participate. Democracy for those with strong immune systems. The meeting went on and on and on. Democracy for those willing to endure inefficiencies. Our children were home with a grandparent they really shouldn't be physically close to in the middle of a global pandemic — and the meeting went on. Democracy for those with [free] childcare. After 2 1/2 hours, at the top of page two of a five page budget, not even close to the actual articles we had come to vote on, we left to get home to our children.
So whose democracy is this? What we witnessed last night was democracy only for those with access to transportation; childcare; time; agency to speak long after your stated limit is up. This is democracy for the privileged. Democracy for those who have learned to navigate complex systems. For those who feel welcome in the [white/male] Club. This is democracy for the already-powerful.
At one point, Moderator Chris Dodig reminded us citizens that Town Meeting was our right — to have a say in the town budget; to participate in the democratic process. But how? A right is not a right if it requires time, money, childcare, the bravery to ignore the stares of all the good `ol boys, and countless other resources. And whose process is this, really? Democracy for those with time to spare. Democracy for the resourced.
What we experienced at the Lanesborough Annual Town Meeting was democracy for those who already belong.
And if that's you, I hope you'll join me in resisting these systems-as-they've-always-been. Because democracy means access for all — those who are like you, and, most especially, those who are not.
Lauren Foss Goodman,