Earlier this month, New Paltz attracted national media coverage following the town planning board’s decision to continue not starting their bi-monthly meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. Fox News and The New York Post quickly picked up the divisive issue, promoting a clear misunderstanding that the board had “banned” the Pledge and considered it a “waste of time.”
Board member Amy Cohen voiced her pro-pledge stance on Fox News, proclaiming the Pledge a beacon of respect to veterans, first responders and soldiers, and should be said before a government meeting. Several current and former town officials took to social media to argue for the sake of democracy and defend the board’s decission. As dialogue with other community members ensued on the issue, both sides became indistinguishable. This digression of conversation proves no one was the bigger person in this “debate.”
We at The New Paltz Oracle do not wish to express an opinion as to whether or not the Pledge should be recited, but rather comment on how this decision was made, how the community can grow from it and the embarrassing national aftermath that followed.
While many continue to feel strongly toward this issue, the verdict was determined by a rule of the majority ― a judgment that emulates a cornerstone of democracy. The board voted 4-3 to continue begining meetings without the Pledge, so until more pro-pledge members surface that’s what they’ll do.
It’s disheartening that a seemingly level-headed discussion at a town meeting led to an exacerbated debate over patriotism. Everyone has the right to voice their opinions in a public setting, but we do not stand with the belittlement of anyone’s personal beliefs.
Businesspeople and elected officials must have a more respectful operating procedure and a higher level of expected etiquette than we’ve seen. As young adults aspiring to play crucial roles in our future communities, this is a troubling case of role models disregarding their duty.
There are those on both sides who felt they were simply standing up for their beliefs, which nobody is saying they can’t or shouldn’t do. However, in a country currently besieged by powerful extremes and a disappearing middle ground for bipartisanship, New Paltz has just shown that we’re not any closer to claiming a sense of communal unity and open-mindedness than anyone else.
New Paltz is a vibrant community full of unique people who feel very strongly about a great many issues and are never afraid to show it. We have seen these ideologies at the forefront many times before, such as the support former Mayor Jason West received when he married gay couples in 2004 and the Town Board’s passing of anti-fracking legislation in 2012. These principles clearly have the ability to unify us.
This episode shows all that there is value in rising above petty bickering to maturely defend one’s beliefs and argue for change. We should all be disappointed in how our community at-large was portrayed to America, but no one should lose the will to voice their opinions loud and clear.
Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.