Upholding the Constitution in Woods Hole

 

Growing up in the Davisville section of East Falmouth, I thought I lived in the center of the world.  My neighborhood had everything.  We had the East Falmouth School to get an education, a Fire Station at the end of the street, Al Martinage's Family Foods to get our groceries, Ben Moreland's dry cleaners with an arcade upstairs, and the Falmouth National Bank at the corner.  We even had a funeral home in the neighborhood where Danny Pacheco's barber shop is now.  My first job (other than delivering newspapers in Fisherman's Cove) was at the original Sam's Seafood where the Davisville Grill sits today, and I enjoyed walking home from St. Anthony's Church after CCD by cutting through Jake's parking lot.  It was a special treat for Ernie Keating's son Sean and I to take our huffys to Curtis Compact to buy a pack of a new product called Bubble Yum for 25 cents.  I learned about right and wrong in the village when my mom made me march into Family Foods after stealing my first (and only) pack of Juicy Fruit, apologize to Mr. Martinage, give the gum back, and pay for it anyway.  

Living in a great neighborhood like that, the rest of Falmouth seemed like a far away land.  The whistle from the Falmouth Fire Headquarters on Main Street every afternoon seemed like it was coming from another world.  If downtown was another world to a young kid from the east end, then Woods Hole was another galaxy.  After elementary school, kids from around the town joined together for middle school at Morse Pond - and it was like countries coming together for the Olympics.   As far as we knew, only bespectacled smart kids came from the Woods Hole School. I don't think I went to Woods Hole a dozen times before I was eighteen.  Eventually, though, I broke out of that paradigm and realized that there was life beyond the borders of Menauhant and Central Ave.    

My life went on, and my addresses changed from Fisherman's Cove to Brown Court downtown, to Viewcrest Drive in West Falmouth, to Jericho Path in the Heights before settling down in North Falmouth.

In short, I've lived all over this wonderful town and learned that although my roots and my heart came alive in East Falmouth, all villages have a vibrant identity and all contribute to our local soul.  I am grateful that I learned that.  I am also aware that some still have not, which brings me to the nonsense going on in Woods Hole today surrounding two community organizations sparring over the ability to watch and debate films at the Woods Hole Community Hall. 

My village-centric thinking as a kid is something I look fondly at today.  The same behavior in an adult - or in a community group - is not so cute.  When adults still think that only smart people who know better than the rest of us come from the hamlet in the southwest corner of our community, trouble awaits. 

The Woods Hole Community Association has leased the old fire station (now the community hall) on Water Street for years.  They are stewards, though, not owners of this public facility.  They are still bound by a civic, if not legal, responsibility to uphold some of our core democratic values in conducting their business in the building. The Association's recent scrum with the politically-minded Cinema Politica, then, is a profound disappointment, and flies in the face of those principles, particularly the one that celebrates our rights to assemble and disagree publicly.    Cinema Politica, which cites the "progressive community spirit" of Woods Hole on its website, screens intentionally thought-provoking and controversial films to stimulate discussion and interaction.  That sounds innocent enough to me, in fact it might just as easily describe this column (sans the WH address) as it does a local chapter of a worldwide social action group.  Cinema Politica would appear to be exactly the kind of high-brow, intellectual organization that the leaders of the Community Association, who have professed their superior intellect and ability to determine what is right for the village and its citizens, would support.

Somewhere along the line, though, that village-centric thinking that keeps popping up from time to time, taking shape as speed bumps or opposition to affordable housing, entered into the world of Cinema Politica and representatives of the Association decided that the films being shown were not appropriate and the ability to screen them in a building owned by the citizens of this community was yanked. 

I haven't seen any of the films, but have become aware through reports that the topics are certainly relevant and worthy of public debate.  The Middle East conflict has global impacts - why can't it be debated in Woods Hole?

The Community Association has received the confidence and trust of the town of Falmouth - the public - by repeatedly being given the keys to the community hall.  They owe it to that same public to uphold our most sacred document - the Constitution - and allow Cinema Politica to continue to foster debate and discussion - even if they disagree.  

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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