Our Review Reader Meet-up took place Tuesday night at Fat Duck. At the time I write this, the meet-up hasn’t yet happened. So I’m blindly saying thank you to all who joined us. I am confident there were lots of kind Forest Parkers who came out to chat with us, share insights into our coverage, give us news tips from around our town and get Allan Brouilette’s autograph. 

Thanks to those who wish to engage. You represent the foundation of healthy discussion. Over the summer, a resident asked about the Forest Park overnight parking ban on a Facebook discussion group, “Forest Park Town Hall.” After some discussion and opinions, the comments changed to “Move out if you don’t like it” or “I am so sick and tired of people coming here and complaining about nonsense,” and “[who] do you Jonny-come-latelies think you are?” 

Why do public discussions in Forest Park so frequently boil down to put up or get out?

One of the strengths of Forest Park is that we have a diverse town with multigenerational families. We have families that have lived here for 100 years, families that have lived here for 50 years, families who have lived here for 10 years and families who have just moved in. In the public discourse, we can blend the wisdom and experience of the families who have been here for generations and the passion and freshness of families who have been here for a few years or months. There are many individuals who make up our hometown. There should not be a wall between the groups.

If you refuse to engage in discussion with neighbors who think in different ways and have different opinions how will our town grow? It is good to have a different opinion; it is good to listen to people who think differently than you do; this is how we learn. Debate can show different sides of an issue, it can bring understanding and acceptance of a situation, and it can improve our community.

We are in an era where the entire university football team in Missouri took a stand for a cause in order to be heard. This is an era in which suicide bombers try to enter a national soccer game in France with the intent to be heard. This is an era in which people print T-shirts that say, “I can’t breathe,” to be heard. We have the resources and avenues for public discourse in our hometown to be engaged with one another without having to resort to extreme measures. We should use them with openness and kindness.

Our nation was founded on principles of freedom of speech and expression. We can listen, we can disagree, we can share our thoughts, we are the democracy that is America.

This year marks both the 152nd Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his proclamation for the first Federally recognized Thanksgiving Holiday.  In 1863 people were dying for human equality in our nation. We have come a long way, but let’s be neighborly to our Forest Park community.  We are all equally sharing Forest Park,  let’s consider one another as equal contributors and be thankful. 

I am grateful to my friends and neighbors in Forest Park who choose to be part of our discussions and who choose to listen to other opinions. Forest Park is a living embodiment of the challenge of self-government — a small, diverse community that can share and engage with one another. “We the people” are Forest Park. There is much unfinished work for us to do and be a part of, we are a government of the people, by the people, for the people … let’s discuss.