Folks have right to voice opinion
Trumpism, defined here as the politics of name calling, has come to Milford in the form of a letter to the editor of The Cabinet that was published last week. It was signed by Mark J. Fougere, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. In the letter, he calls a resident who has been protesting the selectmen’s proposal for what Fougere refers to as "Brox property gravel work" as a "radical obstructionist."
The "radical obstructionist" to whom Fougere refers is, of course, Suzanne Fournier, founder of a group called Brox Environmental Citizens, which is trying to stop gravel removal from the property and defends Brox as environmentally valuable. What Fournier has been doing for many months is writing letters to The Cabinet and attending selectmen’s meetings, all in the name of pushing her environmental agenda.
Apparently, in this Trumpian age, writing letters of protest and standing up publicly to say that what the selectmen propose to do at Brox is environmentally unsound makes one a "radical" and an "obstructionist," as if Fournier were lying down in front of gravel trucks or organizing sit-ins in Milford Town Hall.
All Fournier has done is exercise, in perfectly reasonable and legitimate ways, her American right to protest. We can understand if selectmen find her a pain, but that doesn’t mean she is out of line.
As we have said in the past, we have great respect for this Board of Selectmen and generally find them to be respectful, conscientious and reasonable, which is why we were surprised to see Fougere describe Fournier as he did. She is hardly a radical, hardly the Bernardine Dohrn of Milford, N.H., environmentalism.
And an obstructionist? Only if speaking your mind and telling public officials that they are wrong is an act of obstruction.
And if she is a radical obstructionist, what does that make Tom Gardner, who has been doing precisely the same things as Fournier? He has written letters to the editor protesting the Brox proposals, and he has attended selectmen’s meetings.
And what about the Rev. Hays M. Junkin, pastor of Milford’s Church of Our Saviour, who, in the May 19 edition of The Cabinet, wrote about the endangered Blanding’s turtle at Brox and said he supported Fournier’s position?
So we have, apparently, running dangerously loose in Milford, a radical obstructionist and a misleader, at the very least, and perhaps a minister in the mold of the late Daniel Berrigan.
Of course, Fougere and the other four selectmen have every right to defend their proposals for the Brox property. But to fall into the Trump trap and call names is, we like to think, beneath them.
And that’s another thing: Are we really talking about "them" here in terms of the responsibility for Fougere’s letter? He writes, "Yes, the selectmen have a plan for the Brox property gravel work" and he mentions "the board" at other times in the letter, but only his name appears as a signature and nowhere does he say he is speaking for the entire board, nowhere does he say that the board stands behind his words. Perhaps the other members do – perhaps they, too, see radicalism in the writing of letters and the speaking in protest at public meetings – but that isn’t clear.
All we know for sure is that the word "radical" is an absolute pejorative in this day and age, and shouldn’t be used lightly. Perhaps Fougere only threw it out there because it sounds good as a modifier for obstructionist and he really didn’t mean to paint one of his fellow residents as being removed from the path of reasonable discourse and protest.
But if he did mean it in precise terms, if he does see someone who writes letters and attends meetings as a "radical obstructionist" rather than, in old-fashioned terms, a "gadfly" or, in modern parlance, a "royal pain," he needs to think about whether he really wants to be a town official.
If the worst he has to face is Suzanne Fournier, Tom Gardner and the Rev. Junkin, he’s one lucky public official.
And even if we, and you, all completely disagree with Fournier, Gardner and Junkin, we still should applaud them for taking an interest, taking a stand and caring enough to stick out their necks.
Fougere and the rest of the selectmen should be leading that applause, even if they decide that those three are wrong. In the end, that is the selectmen’s prerogative.
But they have to remember that even people they don’t like have the right to a point of view and the right to express it without being labeled.