Editorial: The Minority Report

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We have found there’s a fallout from two years of the COVID pandemic. It is unfortunate, but people are much less willing to listen to those with differing opinions. How quickly we can close-down those whose views differ from our own. Society pushes them into a minority, but, their opinions and beliefs are important and should be heard and shown respect. They offer us a minority report if we are willing to listen.

While “The Minority Report” was a popular 2002 Stephen Spielberg movie starring Tom Cruise, we are referencing the 1956 science fiction novel by Philip Dick that shows the pitfalls of a society that denies a minority opinion. As the author says: “The existence of a majority logically implies a corresponding minority.” If we ignore, or worse belittle, a minority opinion when it is being expressed in a civil way, we can be sure those who believe it will find a way to be heard. This was the case with the Republican Town Party caucuses recently as was reported in these pages.

 

The flip side is that when we consider the minority opinion the results are often better. There are two examples from this week alone. Both concern the First Selectman. First Selectman Fred Camillo wanted to push forward traffic improvements to two intersections: the Greenwich Avenue intersection with Arch Street and Havemeyer Place, as well as Fawcett Place and Grigg Street.

The challenge is that the Fawcett Place/Grigg Street upgrades would cause a loss of approximately 29 spaces. There were concerns about the loss of parking on a part of Greenwich Avenue that already faces parking challenges. Mr. Camillo rightly chose to only put forward (for now) the Arch Street/Havemeyer Place upgrades which will add two parking spaces. He recognizes the importance of working with differing opinions, as he said, “I look forward to continuing this dialogue.”

When the First Selectman this week unveiled his budget for the next fiscal year, he pushed off the plan to rebuild the Dorothy Hamill ice rink until the following year. There was concern about how the new rink would fit on the property along with a baseball field and a memorial stand of trees honoring veterans. In this case, the Byram Veterans and some neighbors were the “minority report.” Now Mr. Camillo will have a year to work with all parties to ensure they come up with a plan that works for everyone.

There are also plenty of examples where the minority opinion has not yet been truly heard. The father whose handicapped child’s school is still not ADA compliant, parents frustrated by a system they see as failing their children in many ways, concerns about the response to the pandemic, and more.

Listening politely to others is something we were taught to do as children. Differences of opinion, we were told, brings value to our conversations and frankly to our community. If we all had the same opinion on all topics, we’d give up our own individuality and become some weird version of “Stepford Wives.”

As we have said before, pro-longed stress eliminates the ability for us to have empathy. Two years of COVID has created two years of extreme stress and a lack of empathy. A lack of empathy means we do not want to hear, or even tolerate, a dissenting opinion – a minority report. We must change that.

Occasionally we may find ourselves saying, “You know what? You were right” or perhaps “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

As we, hopefully, begin to come out of this pandemic we will certainly need to relearn some social skills; how to talk to someone without a mask; how to drive down Greenwich Avenue again; even how to go grocery shopping without getting angry. We will need to learn to listen to a minority report (even if it is about politics) without losing our patience. After all, the minority exists as surely as the majority does and we need both in Greenwich.

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