[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to email@example.com.]
To the Editor:
During the 16 years my family has lived in Southborough, my husband and our three children have been blessed to have local friends and neighbors who are deeply kind and caring, who have been there in times of celebration and of adversity. So many Southborough residents, we have found, have deeply-held beliefs about the importance of community which they often translate into action when they selflessly go out of their way to help one another.
This is why it came as an incredible disappointment this summer to find an anonymous letter delivered to my home in response to the sign we put in our front yard that reads in part, “We believe black lives matter, no human is illegal, love is love” and so on. You’ve likely seen these signs dotting lawns around town. The letter, which had no return address, was filled with half-truths, propaganda and an edge of threat as it admonished my family to visit a website — called “a prolific poster of misinformation and conspiracy theories” by the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org — for more information about the Black Lives Matter movement, which the letter demonized.
After sharing the missive on Facebook, I learned that others in my neighborhood with the same sign in front of their homes, received an identical letter, in which the writer expressed hope that the recipients were not part of the “communist-Marxist-facist hatred” of Black Lives Matter. Since many of us live on quiet side streets, it’s highly likely the letters are from someone who lives nearby. From a neighbor.
Last month, I came across a Facebook post from another resident who said he has a Black Lives Matter sign in his yard and reported that someone regularly drives by early in the morning, honks his vehicle horn and shouts profanities. Once, the resident said, the profane shouting came as his 7-year-old was playing in the yard. In response to this post on a private Southborough parents’ Facebook page, several others reported that they’d had similar responses to their Black Lives Matter signs either in the form of shouting or anonymous letters.
How deeply, deeply disappointing it has been to hear that in our town — whose virtues and sense of community spirit I championed in a book about our middle school’s band director — has seething pockets of hatred, has members who see fit to sow seeds of doubt and division amongst us, who have us eyeing our neighbors with suspicion and dread.
Many of us have been holed up in our homes for many months now, kept away from our loved ones by a lethal, highly contagious pandemic that has killed over 210,000 in this country, killed one Southborough resident and sickened 64. As COVID-19 lingers in the air, American streets have echoed with the cries of those protesting the death of George Floyd and the continued racial injustice and fatal brutality imposed upon our citizens, something to which our local youth responded by organizing a candlelight vigil for peace and racial justice. Meanwhile, there’s less than a month left in the most divisive presidential campaign in recent memory.
There is so much pain in the world right now, in our nation, our state, our town. People have lost their loved ones, their livelihoods, their homes, lost out on important milestones in their lives. People are longing to hug one another and to return to their pre-COVID lives. So why, amid all this misery, are people accosting their own neighbors with anonymous letters and drive-by taunts? In all this darkness, why aren’t we trying to find ways to lift one another up and cultivate a loving community in which we can all thrive?
If you see a sign in front of a neighbor’s home that irks you, why not have a friendly chat with that person instead of dumping angry, anonymous mail in a mailbox? Engage in civil discourse. We can handle it. Many of us don’t necessarily agree with our own family members when it comes to politics, but in the end, we’re still family. The same goes for our neighbors. Once the presidential election is over and the candidate signs come down, we are still Southborough. How about, instead of sending one another unsigned letters, shouting into one another’s yards, or sending the explicit message to non-white families that they are not wanted in town, we work on building a supportive Southborough?
I recently came across this quote from a writer, Gladys Tabor, “Being a good neighbor is an art which makes life richer.” My fervent hope is that we strive to make everyone in town rich with kindness, compassion and vibrant community inclusiveness.