Letter: ‘Concerned Citizens’ should come out of the shadows

Posted 7/2/20

I read with great interest in last week’s Phoenix about a new organization called “Bristol County Concerned Citizens” and then paused in astonishment at the blatant …

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Letter: ‘Concerned Citizens’ should come out of the shadows

Posted

I read with great interest in last week’s Phoenix about a new organization called “Bristol County Concerned Citizens” and then paused in astonishment at the blatant misrepresentation of their own organization. So, just who are these “Concerned Citizens,” and what exactly is their mission?

In their words, they are not a political organization, yet they are overwhelmingly comprised of members of the Republican Town Committee and disgruntled former members of the Democratic Town Committee. In fact, one of the organization’s co-chairs is a declared candidate for Bristol Town Council.

The Concerned Citizens’ stated mission includes typical conservative talking points that are thinly veiled under the guise of “traditional family values.” They tried to hide their true message with careful phrasing, but I heard what they were saying loud and clear. Their stated values include:

  • “Traditional family values,” which is code for only recognizing and respecting heterosexual marriages as “families” and which dismiss LBGTQIA+ people completely; 
  • “Sanctity of life,” which is code for being opposed to abortion rights and women’s reproductive rights; 
  • “Educational choices,” which is code for wanting to dismantle the public school structure and replace it with charter schools, leading to the reestablishment of de facto segregation in our system; 
  • “Legal immigration and cultural assimilation,” which is code for nationalism and white supremacy, and which conveniently ignores that seeking asylum is legal, and that there are children dying in cages at our border (which certainly conflicts with their alleged commitment to the “sanctity of life”); 
  • “Limited taxes,” which is a classic conservative talking point meant to scare people from wanting to pay for the very services they claim to revere (police, fire, DPW, etc); 
  • “Reasonable environmental policies,” which is code for making environmental policy based on cost vs. long-term health impact and health disparities; and
  • The right to bear arms,” which is probably one of the most hot-button issues in our country right now as we struggle to find ways to keep our communities safe from gun violence while the gun lobby funds our politicians.

Lastly, they claim they want to protect our “traditional American values,” which I can only believe means their own values — all of which are incredibly political and are at odds with our Constitutional declaration that “we all are created equal.” Americans are showing us over and over again just what American values really are. And they include welcoming people into our communities regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.

Transparency and accountability are paramount to a functioning community. The motives of the “Concerned Citizens” are shrouded in rhetoric, but their actions tell us the real story.

Make no mistake: this is a political organization with intentions of influencing decisions of local elected leaders and the outcomes of elections. I call on them to acknowledge that and to say it out loud. If you are proud of what you stand for: step into the sun — you can no longer hide in the shadows.

Erich Haslehurst
Bristol

Mr. Haslehurst is chairman of the Bristol Democratic Town Committee.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.