Parade controversy marches on

Quoting from “Oklahoma”: “Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends!” Put another way, “Children, will you please shut up?!”

There is presently hell to pay in Great Barrington over nothing.

A few of the town merchants decided to voice their displeasure over the timing of the recent Great Barrington 250th anniversary parade, a great thing for the town. Several of my merchant friends asked, “Why couldn’t the parade have been at 5 p.m. instead of earlier, which ruined our business?”

Many of these business people are spoiling for a fight since the town did something that will unquestionably really hurt their businesses. Inadvisably, they accepted a construction and design plan that may wreak havoc on many of the town’s businesses. However, venting displeasure at this Sunday parade was a big mistake and I told them what Mrs. Zwick told me in eighth grade, “Keep shut!” Had they asked me before they opened their mouths, I would have told them not to.

I’m in the media. I’ve been watching this stuff for years. There are some fights that just can’t be won and this is one of them. Lots of people who might never have come to Great Barrington came to watch the parade. In fact, the merchants should never have closed their doors. Once people come, they’ll come back. Also, how many 250th birthday celebrations can a town have?

So, on the one side are the merchants — all kinds of merchants — with all kinds of ethnic and religious backgrounds. I say that because some of the appellations and intolerant comments that have been tossed around make me want to throw up. You’d think that we would have learned something about that kind of stuff.

Ed McCormick, a fixture in town government and everything else, co-wrote what started out as an admirably conciliatory letter to The Eagle but ended with the sarcastic remark, “We apologize to those businesses that ‘may’ have lost a few dollars if you were inconvenienced on Sunday so that more than 10,000 spectators could celebrate our history and heritage.” The quotation marks around the “may” in the previous sentence were the giveaway. His letter was followed in The Eagle with a blast from Laura Keefner, another prominent Great Barrington voice, who wrote, “I will continue to do most of my shopping out of town until this town recognizes us locals and all that we have to offer.”

Earlier in her letter, Keefner told us that she didn’t shop in Great Barrington because “I cannot afford to shop the stores in town.” She also asks, “What about us locals, don’t we count?”

Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. There seems to be some resentment about the treatment locals get as opposed to tourists. Hey, these tourists shop and use services. Just ask the electricians and the plumbers and all the people who owe a good deal of their livelihood to the huge tourist and second-home trade that make the Berkshires a destination. If we didn’t have them, we’d pay someone to go get them. Second-home owners do shop in Great Barrington and I’m not sure whether to count them in the “locals” column or not. This is exactly the kind of intemperate talk we don’t need. We need to make love not war.

Let us all take a deep, deep breath and shake hands.

To all of you who have sent me 70th birthday felicitations, I say thank you. My birthday wish is for each of us to be good to ourselves, to be good to our neighbors, and to think the best of each other. The last thing we need is to go around making unnecessary wars either abroad or in our home town.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 7/23/11

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