Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Towns, like individuals, live in the sea of history and have identities that are defined over time. Towns, like individuals, are complex entities that function on many levels: physical, emotional, political, environmental, moral, spiritual, intellectual, to name just a few.

In fact, towns and individuals are not separate entities; rather they interact, intersect, and co-create as people come to identify with where they live, shape it, and are, in turn, shaped by their towns. Why do we feel we belong in some places and not in others? What are the attributes of towns and of ourselves that make us proud when we identify as inhabitants of a particular place?

When our family moved to Woodstock in the 1980s, we moved to a town defined by the 1969 Woodstock Concert and its symbol of a dove perched on a guitar. We were drawn to Woodstock from New York City by sentiments of peace and love, acceptance of diversity, and the anti-Vietnam War movement. Also, historically, Woodstock had been known as the Colony of the Arts. We were happy to say that those identities suited us well, and we were proud to say we were from Woodstock.

Today, we feel that those essential characteristics are not so apt, that they are mostly relics from the past and that we, as Woodstockers, need to invest ourselves in new or different identities of which we can be proud. One of those possible new identities is that of an engaged and well-informed citizenry, who are actively engaged in protecting their basic freedoms, as guaranteed by our Constitution.

When attempts are made to limit those freedoms, as Governor Cuomo did when he issued his June 5 Executive Order #157, it is up to us and our town to speak up and let our voices be heard. Let’s make Woodstock into a town where free speech is sacrosanct. Let’s make Woodstock into a town known for its love of free expression and its willingness to stand up against any and all government encroachments of our constitutional rights. This is an identity that we can be proud of and one that speaks of the very best in us.

Identities can’t be assumed as easily as putting on a new hat or coat; they aren’t mere masks, but are outward expressions of our beliefs. They must be earned over time by constant nourishment and reaffirmation. You can be part of fueling this new identity by getting involved with the Woodstock Free Speech movement. Please attend a meeting of the Woodstock Town Board (76 Comeau Drive), on Tuesday, July 19, when Jay Wenk will introduce a Free Speech Resolution. You can read the resolution and sign our petition at http://www.woodstockfreespeech.org/.

Nic Abramson
Helaine Meisler
Shady, NY

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