I have discovered that I have to be careful when talking about the reality of today’s situation in Newburyport or about it’s history. There are so many who go about their business in town completely oblivious to anything except by pre-conceived ideas as established by the anecdotal information of family and friends and by what is ‘assumed’ to be true.
When someone comes along and tells them things they have never heard before, the first response is disbelief. “What you are saying can not be true!” they respond. And when you follow up with evidence, the full shock hits them and they’re second response is that they can not believe that nothing has been done or that it has not been proclaimed upon a hilltop!
Knowledge bears with it a heavy load of responsibility. Once you learn something that is true and you know enough to recognize that something has to be done about it; then it sinks in that it will be now in the hearer’s control to do something about it!
Most will respond to the truth teller and put up a hand.
STOP! TOO MUCH INFORMATION!
And if the truth-teller insist on keeping on providing the information, and responsible citizens begin to gather around and determine to spread the information or to resolve the issues that the information has identified; then comes the ugly reaction.
You see, there is always a small faction that like it when the ‘assumed’ information has been propagated, or the unresolved issues keep on being unresolved. In fact, a small fully-vested minority may be making a great profit from the present condition.
Then it gets ugly and it gets mean because you are cutting into their livelihood regardless how much it hurts others. Then it becomes:
STOP AND SHUT UP! AND IF YOU DON’T, WE’LL MAKE YOU SHUT UP!
Even in America, there is a price for free speech. William Lloyd Garrison found out that the free press wasn’t free and ended up in jail and once – almost was torn to pieces by the mob. In the short time I have been in Newburyport (27 years) I have seen those who wanted to make a positive difference in the area (and often did); yet eventually were driven out by one means or another.
Keep this in mind for those who would do well and want to benefit the public good. Truth is a double-edged sword and it will cut both ways.
A terrible problem in our city may hemorrhage for years without any a word said in public until you declare you are going to try to resolve it; and a thousand arm-chair critics will rise up and declare there is a new problem, YOU!
Truth tellers! Listen up!
If you want to make a difference in the city, forget the accolades. They aren’t coming and the parades? They’ve been cancelled.
Look at our history! Theophilus Parsons, who gave birth to our Bill of Rights, forgotten! Caleb Cushing, our first mayor; his work was tremendous for the nation and he doesn’t even get a footnote in a dusty history book, nor a monument fitting of his deeds. Bartlett, Bromfield, Combs, Dexter, Garrison, Jackson, Lawler, Marquand, Matthews, Morrill, Wheelwright and many others made a difference in our area and few are known locally or nationally.
Seeing a benefit for the community come into reality and a long-standing problem resolved; that is your only sure reward and a lasting monument; and these men of history would agree fully.