Hate is Not a Mental Illness

by Orna Rawls
Marriage & Family Therapist, LMFT

In the weeks leading to Halloween and the election, a friend of mine spotted an effigy of one of the presidential candidates with a knife sticking out of his chest. It was adorning a front yard in a peaceful, bucolic Fairfield County town.

I don’t think it matters which candidate got the knife; what matters is that such a demonstration of blind hate sends a message legitimizing hate and violence to all who pass by and beyond.

Is hate a mental illness as many feel? The American Psychiatric Association concluded that hate is not a mental illness. People consumed by hate may be fearful, unhappy, resentful, chronically angry and/or ignorant. They tend to gravitate towards hate-mongering and racist leaders, but they are rarely mentally ill. Hate, however, with its cousin racism, is a social malaise.

Hate and racism are learned behaviors, best summed up in the lyrics from Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific musical:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

Since hate can be taught, it can and should be untaught. 2nd District Councilperson Kaitlyn Shake suggested the council pass a resolution regarding racism as a public health emergency. I’d add hate, hate-mongering and hate crimes to the resolution. And ideally tack on some programs to teach all ages about alternative emotions.

I’m no Rogers and Hammerstein, but here is my valiant attempt at rephrasing their lyrics:

You’ve got to be taught
To be thoughtful and kind,
You’ve got to be taught
Your neighbor to mind,
You’ve got to be taught,
From year to year,
With compassion and goodwill

The “otherness” to cheer.

 

Election Reflection: Pink is the New Blue?

by Rachel Rusnek

As we wait, with bated breath for the votes to be tallied and the results to roll in, there is some breathing room to analyze the minutiae in the results of the Nutmeg State. A long held Democratic fortress, a refuge for far-left liberal voters, at least how we are perceived on the National stage, election night brought few surprises in overall results. Former Vice President Biden handily won Connecticut’s 7 electoral votes in the presidential race, taking over 58% of all votes cast. What may come as surprise to some, are the bright red splotches in this little blue state.

As of this morning, in over 30 (relatively small) Connecticut towns the current White House occupant led the vote counts by margins in the double digits. Most of these small, rural (for Connecticut), working class towns are not chock full of those millionaires and billionaires, able to take advantage of Trump's lush tax cuts for those flush with cash. So, what is the impetus for Trumpian leanings? What do they see in Big Orange?  This question has plagued me, and no doubt many others, since the initial inauguration. (Remember how huge it was?) It’s not for lack of asking, I have.  I’m sure thousands had inquired, but I have yet to hear an answer besides people “are sick of politics as usual”. While Trump’s politics are certainly unusual, his shortcomings (to be kind), lack of decorum, and outright lies (never mind the racist, misogynistic, anti-science tendencies) lead me to struggle to understand how that makes him a viable candidate to so many. I would love to hear from those voters in New Fairfield (62% Trump), Oxford (60%), Prospect (64%), Wolcott (65%), Harwinton, Sterling, Watertown, Thomaston, Hartland, and Plymouth (all over 60%) and understand what makes them vote for Trump? Heck, even here in Stratford, 37% of voters went Orange. Methinks this is not just a result of the election’s close proximity to Halloween. Somehow, these voters must feel that their lives have gotten better over the last four years, or at least believe the promises that they will.

What am I missing?

Rosa DeLauro vs Margaret Streicker

Running for Congresswoman for Connecticut’s 3rd District

by Rachel Rusnek
Project Management at UConn Health

Rosa DeLauro, incumbent Congress woman for the 3rd District, covering central and coastal sections of Connecticut, is running this year to hold her seat against newcomer Margaret Streicker.

DeLauro, a long time New Haven native, boasts 30 years of political service in the district. Her legislative priorities, illustrated by her sponsored bills, have included health, labor and employment issues, agriculture and food safety, taxation, and government operations.

DeLauro has been an active representative for the district throughout her tenure, in fact between Jan 1991 to Oct 2020, DeLauro missed only 1.9% of the 19,021 roll call votes, which have occurred during her tenure, below the median of 2.3% among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving.

DeLauro is the current Co-Chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Other issues identified as a part of her platform include national investment in education, health, and employment, oversight of food and drug safety, and support for working families. She supports raising the minimum wage, access to paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, and equal pay for equal work.

Prior to her congressional service DeLauro worked as the first executive Director of Emily’s List, an organization devoted to increasing the number of women who serve in elected office. She also served as Chief of Staff to former Senator Dodd, and successfully directed the national campaign to end military aid to Nicaraguan Contras, a rebel group known for terrorist tactics and human rights violations. DeLauro has an MA in International Politics from Columbia, and a BA in History & Political Science from Marymount College. She also attended the London School of Economics.

The 2020 challenger, Margaret Streciker, (formerly Margaret Streicker Porres), is a real estate heiress and daughter of John H. Streicker, chairman of the Sentinel Real Estate Corporation, a large real estate company that manages over $5 billion in assets.

Streicker runs her own real estate holding companies, operating primarily in New York, and now Connecticut. She is most well known in New York and real estate circles for her former company, Newcastle Real Estate Services, which was embroiled in scandal in New York for continued violation of State statues and tenants’ rights until it was dissolved in January 2019. Top level employees of the former company including David Drumheller, the former head of operations, have been accused of participating in kickback schemes and price fixing to illegally deregulate apartments. Streicker currently operates Newcastle Connecticut as well as Fortitude Capital, which focuses on
properties outside of the Northeast.

Prior to her foray into campaigning, Streicker received her undergraduate degree from Princeton, where she is a noted donor. She completed master’s degrees in architecture and Real Estate Development at Columbia. Streciker formerly taught at Columbia as an adjunct assistant professor in the Graduate School of Architecture, where she taught residential and assets strategy courses as recently as Fall 2019.

Streicker has identified healthcare, seniors, taxes, and job creation as primary her primary focus. She has also invested heavily in her own campaign, funneling $1.6 million of her own money into its coffers, $1.15 million of which was transferred just this month.

Extra, Extra! CAN’T Read All About it

by James Simon
Candidate for Registrar of Voters

In the past, Stratford politicians had to worry about their mistakes and scandals being exposed by The Connecticut Post, The Stratford Star, even The Stratford Bard (for those of you who go back to the 1970s as I do). Today, the Stratford mayor and Town Council operate largely in the dark, without the spotlight of a lot of press coverage. And we Stratford residents pay the price.

We are not alone. “Thousands of local newspapers have closed in recent years,” the Brookings Institute said in a report on “news deserts” last November. “Their disappearance has left millions of Americans without a vital source of local news and deprived communities of an institution essential for exposing wrongdoing and encouraging civic engagement. Of those still surviving, many have laid off reporters, reduced coverage, and pulled back circulation. “Over 65 million Americans live in counties with only one local newspaper—or none at all,” the report said.
News organizations are having trouble surviving in this digital age when Internet users expect their content to be free. The Post has a terrific reporter assigned to Stratford in Ethan Fry.  (Disclaimer: Ethan was a student of mine at Fairfield University). But the newspaper, trying to survive, has put many of his stories behind a paywall called CtInsider; you must pay a fee to access these stories, in print or online.

It is a tough choice for The Post. Should it make its stories available for free on the Internet, allowing Facebook to steal them, or charge a token fee for stories in hopes of generating a revenue stream. The next time you take one of The Post stories and post it online, you should recognize you are stealing the Post’s content, its intellectual property that it paid to collect, and giving it away for free, making it even harder for The Post to survive.

Meanwhile, The Patch provides free, online coverage, supported by online ads. But while its Stratford reporter, Anna Bybee-Schier, does a good job in covering events, she must juggle many other duties and does not have the time to look behind the scenes of what is happening in Stratford.

When it comes to broadcast news coverage, Channel 8 is rarely in town, and Cablevision Channel 12 is now located on Long Island and does little more than occasionally send a cameraman to get some Stratford footage for the anchor to read over.

The problem becomes more acute when one political party controls both the mayor’s office and the Town Council, as the Republican party currently does. The lack of news coverage works to the advantage of the Republicans; I was not surprised when they eliminated funding for the twice-a-year Stratford Calendar newsletter that was delivered to homes. That publication did not contain news stories, but it provided some social glue for Stratford by providing information on town agencies and groups like Sterling House that interact with the public.

Again, the party in power is often better off with as little coverage as possible. There are some who argue The Stratford Star went under because town politicians pulled the required town advertising that helped the paper survive financially.

Reporters also depend on the opposition party to highlight problems and shortcomings in local government. The GOP dominance has been so great that Democrats have had trouble in being heard when they challenge Republican policies that prevent members of the public from engaging with council members at council meetings.

There are thousands of Stratford residents interested in town politics. Given the lack of options, many have gravitated to the two dozen free Facebook groups, most of which have a clear angle, bias, or orientation that makes them an unreliable source of information. Other town residents get their information by signing up for the Mayor’s weekly e-mail blasts; like all public relations efforts, you should not expect an even-handed presentation of information.

Without the spotlight of press coverage, I am always impressed when townspeople can band together and use Internet petitions and similar techniques to get politicians to slow down and listen to the people. In Stratford, we saw it recently when the mayor’s office withdrew its proposed $1-a-year giveaway to a developer of the former Center School property. We also saw it when the developers of land across from Christ Church were forced to slow down and take into consideration the protection of the landmark house on that site.

Into this breach comes The Stratford Crier. It promises to be an independent source of analysis and information on town issues, putting a spotlight on municipal government and providing the adversarial relationship that the press and government should entertain. I believe very much in the libertarian theory that if there are numerous voices, the truth is more likely to emerge. Stratford could use more such voices.

(Eds note: Dr. James Simon was a political reporter with The Associated Press for 10 years.
After spending 25 years as a college journalism professor and as a dean, mostly at Fairfield
University, he won the Democratic primary for Registrar of Voters in August 2020 and will be
on the town-wide ballot this November.)