• 73°

COLUMN — Let Farmville be the light

Editor’s Note: The following are the closing comments made by Farmville Town Council member Brian Vincent from the Farmville Town Council meeting held Jan. 13. Vincent submitted the comments as an opinion piece.

Recently a family friend asked my wife if she worried about her safety and the safety of our two young daughters because of my position as an elected official.

Brian Vincent

It’s not the first time we’ve been asked that question in my short time in office. From the outside it seems a funny question given our quaint town, but as last Wednesday (Jan. 6) showed, apparently nothing is off the table for some folks. People have seen the comments on social media about council after certain decisions. We’ve all seen the effects of the highly partisan climate in politics. It’s a virus that’s begun to spread from national, to state and down to local politics. Witnessing that infection served as impetus when I first contemplated running for office. My hope has been to show my girls, by example, a form of leadership that operated from integrity, honor and respect. That motivation bred from a love for my offspring expanded into a desire to enact positive change for all our children. So imagine the sadness that takes hold in my heart when someone posits that such an altruistic pursuit could actually cause harm to my beloved kids. It’s a heartbreaking feeling.

Surrounding me sit my fellow council members. We are a collegial bunch. I’ve never asked anyone up here about their particular politics. It’s irrelevant to our objective, and we all operate as such. We don’t run for local office under the auspices of any political party. We run for office as members of the community with a heart for service and a mind to help this town be its best. In these chairs we debate, deliberate and declare positions, but we endeavor to never demean or be dismissive of one another. Likewise we endeavor to treat our constituents with that same respect.

So let us be the last line of defense for decency and civility. Let us not force the ugly rhetoric of national and state politics down to the local government level. Don’t force them on our town. Farmville is an idyllic microcosm of the wider country. Between the exuberant energy of the universities and the steady working hand of our rural community, we have the best of both worlds. We are the envy of many small towns, with our diverse and vibrant community rooted in reconciliation and southern hospitality.

Our town has weathered the Civil War and Civil Rights. As a friend recently commented, we’ve been at the forefront of American progress. It has not come easy, but as Barbara Johns demonstrated, it can come peacefully.

From the 30,000-foot view of history, it is clear that these tides of eternal struggle ebb and flow in our country. But there are traits that can aid us in the quest forward.

Indeed, strong, celebrated legacies are not built from the weak attributes of hate and cynicism. No, the legacy we need to leave for our children should be born of different characteristics. Dignity, integrity, honor, truth, courage, temperance; these attributes are vital to the pursuit of a good life and pillars of a strong community and a resilient nation.

Each of us holds the responsibility of keeping this republic. So let us all devote ourselves to betterment, to respectful deliberation and debate. Let us remember that our neighbors are not just people with different policy ideas and certainly not enemies. No, they are our neighbors and fellow Americans.

This country has plenty of adversaries who wish to see our republic fall. We need not be so easily persuaded to help topple it or tear it down. Let us hold steadfast in our resolve to stand together in our differences. Like Fredrick Douglass, I dream of a country that lives up to its founding ideals.

To quote Mr. Douglass, to be “a nation, based upon human brotherhood and the self-evident truths of liberty and equality.”

Let us champion those ideals and those principles. Let us be the foundation and lead with love. Let Farmville be the standard and the light.

BRIAN VINCENT is a member of the Farmville Town Council. He can be reached at bvincent@ farmvilleva.com.