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[Update: The author of this letter would like to be clear that the following information reflects her personal views and is not intended to represent the views of the Town Council.]
To the Editor:
Years ago my young sons came running into the house after school thrilled.
“Guess what mom, the earth is flat.”
Stunned I responded, “No, the earth is Not flat.”
That was the beginning of an ongoing battle with my kids for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” Whether it was “You know mom, we never landed on the moon” or engaged in discussions of Area 51, we spent a lot of time searching for truth. Without the internet I don’t know how I knew to even listen for “I buried Paul” in Strawberry Fields Forever.
Conspiracies are exciting.
Conspiracy theories in the new age excel with the power of the internet. Unfortunately I find myself outnumbered, out-influenced and out-powered in helping my boys sort fact from fiction. It’s a scary realization, as if the internet is Superman’s kryptonite.
Recently one of our town councilors, gave a thumbs up on a January 6 “Save America Rally” Facebook post posted by a past town councilor. The current town councilor also commented “kickass” along with a thumbs up on a separate “Stop the Steal” rally post as well.
Both these rallies claimed that the election was rigged, a fraud, a lie. The rallies and Facebook posts were a call to action to undo that nonexistent wrong.
The thumbs up gesture is a mutually understood emoji for approval, praise, and agreement.
Like the “Flat Earthers,” the “Stop the Steal” believers quickly gained traction and followers on the internet. Both are rooted in lies and conspiracies.
Believing the earth is flat, at least as a child, does not hold the same consequences as believing our election process was a fraud, but they both travel the same internet highway at a speed much faster than truth.
Facebook can reinforce our beliefs. I can’t imagine how successful I would have been in defeating the flat earth lie if my sons had seen one of their teachers give a thumbs up on a Facebook post claiming indeed that the earth was flat.
Who knows better than a teacher? That thumbs up would have tipped the scale in favor of the flat earth lie, in their minds, anyway.
A thumbs up to a dangerous conspiracy or lie by an individual in a leadership position in our town can radicalize members of our community and jeopardize the safety of us all. As we saw on January 6, there is danger when an elected official, someone in a leadership position, declares a lie to be true.
I don’t like to think about the power a thumbs up could have if given by a member of our Board of Education for a teacher’s Facebook post attending a white supremacy rally, or the influence a police officer’s thumbs up to an Alex Jones rally, claiming Sandy Hook never happened, or the destruction a “kickass” post by our town manager on a rally claiming that our own town’s election was a fraud.
The people in our town and our nation long for unity. We want to feel like one people, indivisible, but in order to have that we must trust each other. A shared belief in our system is necessary to serve our town. Believing an election was stolen by a party is a barrier to trust. What we all believe to be true is stealing is wrong.
The councilor’s Facebook post to concerned residents such as “I’m allowed to wish anyone well I wish. It’s actually an ok thing to do and I don’t need someone’s permission” minimize the danger of supporting lies and conspiracies.
Defending the posts with “I wish you all put this energy into stopping the riots, torching, looting and cop killing this summer. No, you’d rather focus on 2 words on an old Facebook post. Get a life,” miss the point. People look to leaders to take responsibility for their words and actions, not deflect to an unrelated event with false comparisons.
In a recent We-Ha.com article our town councilor referred to her posts as “silly, benign and unrelated.” This response distracts from the very important issue at hand. There is nothing benign about sowing doubt on our electoral process. There is nothing silly about supporting those who would overthrow a free and fair election simply because the president they wanted told them it was stolen.
Unreturned phone call, unanswered text, and a Facebook comment on my page: “It’s sad our elections have questionable integrity” lead me to believe there is no common ground for truth here.
For a short time, on January 6, the future of our democracy was in the hands of one man. One man that could have chosen a thumbs up to the President, he could have chosen a thumbs up to the lie that at this time he, alone, had the power to right that wrong. Imagine where our country would be if VP Pence acted on that lie? Fortunately VP Pence did the right thing, gave it a thumbs down and sided with fact and truth.
They say the truth will set you free. Lies, on the other hand, can be deadly. Ask my brother-in-law’s sister whose husband died of Covid because he believed it was a hoax.
While we are entitled to our own opinions we are not entitled to our own facts and a thumbs up tells us what someone believes to be true.
Unity is born in reconciliation, anything less, is just another lie.
Now back to my sons’ intrigue in the U.S. Department of Justice report on Canadians smuggling aliens into the United States.
West Hartford Town Council Member