Words can have a profound effect on people and a community, for good or ill. Every morning I pour myself a cup of coffee and head to the recliner, where I grab my laptop and click on the Herald News website for today’s news. As an article grabs my attention and I finish reading it, I continue on to the comments section. The thread reads as both entertaining and alarming. The comments start off on topic, but some rapidly deteriorate in substance as they go off the subject and begin to take on a more passive-aggressive tone, one of apathy. While some comments are
entertaining in nature, even on the humorous side, they also serve as a strong indicator on how people feel about the state of things in our city.
“This city is doomed”, “Who cares?”, “The same get re-elected again and again”, and “Same old, same old” are words often repeated in this forum style, but it’s not just here where you can hear the winds of discontent. Words such as these are also spoken in bars, living rooms and street corners. Sadly, they go no further than the environment they are uttered in. This passive-aggressive rhetoric is not only carried on over to the news article threads on the Herald website, but also on Facebook pages or other social media outlets. Reading these threads and words give the impression that the citizens are “mad as hell”, but they’re appeasement shows in absence of action.
Times like this I often think of the scene in the 1976 movie “Network”, where anchorman Howard Beale walks onto the set at the start of his newscast soaked in pajamas and raincoat screaming into the camera for the people to shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”, where you then see people opening their windows and screaming Beale’s words during a thunderstorm. The result is people begin to take back control of their lives. I believe this is what needs to happen in Fall River. No one has to tell you how bad things have gotten here, as we all know that just by looking around us. Venting our frustrations doesn’t help much unless we do something, so what do we do about it?
The first step is to get angry and the anger is already in place. Anger, if properly focused, channeled and discussed, can do some damage to the status quo, which has been crippling this city for decades. This can be used in the form of constructive criticism, but the problem is that some people misconstrue some criticism for being negative. It’s true that being too negative can disparage people from taking your words seriously, but when used in a constructive manner with clarity it can allow your thoughts and ideas to be heard and debated with sincerity. People should feel angry hearing words about Fall River that are not in a good light, but their anger gets misplaced with pride and misdirected toward the messenger. The truth can be hard to hear at times through constructive criticism, but it needs to be recognized in order to properly see things in their context.
Then there are the pockets of isolationism within the city. Too many groups and people talk amongst themselves and don’t take a proactive stance by reaching out to others, or just sit on their hands waiting for others to reach out to them. Strength, self-reliance and unity are found in numbers. If we all can reach out, get together and engage in civil discourse and follow through on its beliefs and ideas, it would be a mighty weapon to wield in fighting the current problems facing Fall River. We have seen this recently with the LNG issue, which was a long hard-fought battle to prevent Hess from setting up a LNG tank and port here in Fall River. If the people in the city got together on an issue like that, stayed with it and have their cause succeed, can you imagine what we can do with the rest of Fall River’s problems?
I ask myself where in Fall River is “our” Howard Beale, but I think Beale is in each and every one of us that writes a comment or letter in the paper or vocalizes their opinion that they’re not happy with things Fall River. With that said, we just need to get together and take action. Steps have been taken in the right direction with neighborhood associations helping to improve their respective areas and progressive ideas by leaders of various degrees, but more needs to be done. Big things usually start off in small places. The status quo of Fall River must change as the words of Howard Beale are more relevant today than ever before. The window has opened and your words spoken, now what say you?