The Peanut Gallery
Are you a member of the Peanut Gallery?
Not sure? Well here’s a quiz to help you decide if you just might be a member of the Peanut Gallery:
- Do you have an opinion no matter how little you know about a subject? Local event or nuclear physics - doesn’t make any difference - you have an opinion and by crackey the rest of the world is entitled to it!
- Do you avoid every opportunity to contribute to any possible solution to a community problem? "Not me, I'm busy.”
- Have you NEVER run for office or sat on any community organization’s board? "That’s for patsies.”
Answer yes to any of these and you might be a member of the Peanut Gallery. Named for a theater’s cheap seats, where peanuts were served and often thrown at performers, the term is now used to describe a group of people who offer frequent and abundant criticism.
Every one of us has the right to an opinion. The Freedom of Speech guaranteed by the Bill of Rights prohibits the government from curtailing that speech. The very existence of this newspaper is predicated on that Freedom, so we take it very seriously. Watch our letters page over the course of a year and you’ll see that we print just about every letter that arrives in our office, many of them expressing views that we certainly don't agree with. Some expressing views we can’t quite figure out. And nobody from any branch of the government tells us what to print. In spite of hearing that, because we’re a newspaper, we must be part of the"liberal media,” we have never received a single directive from anyone in the "media” telling us what to print or what position to take on any subject. Guess we were left off that list.
Those in the Peanut Gallery have plenty to say, but never in any environment that could possibly result in things getting better.
No, there’s no speaking to Town Council or in front of any board meeting – that would be productive use of their Freedom of Speech. The Peanut Gallery only speaks to each other, preferably surrounded by other peanuts that hold the same opinion. That way they will never be challenged to consider any other viewpoint.
Come to think of it, much of our political stalemate in DC can probably be traced to that tendency to surround yourself with others who agree with you. Soon you forget that any other opinion exists, much less that there might be some validity to it.
Members of the Gallery always have a solution, not a suggestion, mind you, but a sure-fire solution, that if only those (fill-in-the-blank) officials could see the nose on the end of their face they’d realize this themselves. But the Gallery keeps it to themselves, like a well-kept secret that only they know.
I bet they have the solution to our traffic problems and our pedestrian safety problems and our financial problems, not to mention noise issues and right of way issues or airplane noise.
To the Peanut Gallery, I have one thing to say:
Get off your barstool and get in front of the people who have the power to make a change!
Every single council and board meeting held in our Town takes Public Comment from anyone who wishes to speak to them. From Town Council to the Library and Fire Boards to every Town Advisory Committee – they all welcome any resident or visitor who has an idea or a concern or a comment.
These people who have put themselves out there through an election or by volunteering are willing to listen to everyone and frankly, depend on the community to assist in problem-solving.
Who utilizes those Public Comment opportunities? Generally the same handful of people – the ones who have figured out how to mobilize their friends and like-minded citizens to utilize the platform provided to share their concerns and support their priorities. And good for them! I just wish that more people would learn to use that platform because the same voices saying the same things tend to lead to the conclusion that those few represent everyone’s opinion.
Our Town has over 6,000 full-time residents. How awesome would our community be if just a third of them were active in our community, participating in local government, working with community organizations and actively trying to improve our community?
Reality is that the same 50-100 people volunteer all the time, for everything. They attend meetings and speak up, offering suggestions and opinions.
Government is not a spectator sport!
Thomas Jefferson once said that you get the government you deserve. A population that doesn’t care enough about their community and local government to participate deserves a Town where a handful of people influence all the decisions.
Sitting in the Peanut Gallery and grousing about this or that should be reserved for crabby old guys who have run out of energy to do anything else. Every Town has ‘em, as do we. What we need are more active residents to counteract the Peanut Gallery.
It was Eldridge Cleaver who once said, "You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.”
Which are you?