Looking at the past

With the new year almost upon us, we think about the past, in this case December of 1988.

In an editorial, William B. Rotch said this: “A freshman legislator interviewed on WEVO recently repeated two pledges she had made to the people who elected her. One pledge was to do everything in her power to ease the burden of the real estate tax. The other was never to vote for a state sales or income tax. Someday New Hampshire politicians are going to have to accept the fact that they can’t have it both ways.”

In a list of New Year’s resolutions in The Cabinet — we actually asked for them — was one from Gail Proctor, then a member of the Wilton budget committee, who said, “I’m going to finish the spring cleaning I started in 1982. And encourage the citizenry of our area to be as informed and participatory as possible in the politics of our time, be it on the local, state or national level.”

What’s most interesting about these two items is how things don’t change. We are still moaning and groaning about our arduous property taxes but still refuse to do anything about them. A tax on income? Outrageous. It would mean taxing people on how much they make, not on how much land they have. It would mean that people who are out of work pay less in taxes than people who have jobs. Outrageous.

We guess it must have seem outrageous in 1988, or the newly elected legislator who promised property tax relief would have at least considered an income tax to give folks property tax relief. But it apparently wasn’t all that important to that legislator, just as it doesn’t seem to be important to those currently in office.

And as for our friend Gail Proctor, we refuse to get into any discussion about her spring cleaning habits, having no knowledge of what they might be, or even what they were 30 years ago.

But we can say this: She is still keeping the second part of that resolution, helping groups like Wilton Peace Action take the lead in protests against racial and gender injustice. If there’s a group holding signs outside the Wilton library, if there are people marching down Main Street to the local park, you can bet Gail Proctor is somewhere in that group.

It’s a pity that 30 years ago, that new state legislator didn’t take a lesson from Gail.

We all still could. How can we be in this position 54 years after the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act? How can people of color still face discrimination and, in some terrible cases, death simply because of their skin color?

Gail Proctor and others like her try and try to do something about it but too often seem to come up against levels of recalcitrance that should be out of place in what is almost 2019. What would Lyndon Johnson have thought had someone told him in 1964 that things wouldn’t be all that different in 2019? He wouldn’t have believed it.

And what would Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy have thought had you told them the same thing? They each had far too much faith in humanity to have believed it.

That faith still lives in people like Gail Proctor who, 30 years after making a New Year’s resolution, continues to keep it.