Back in October, something happened that sent shock waves across America. Regardless of age, gender or political affiliation – jaws universally dropped at the sight of Ellen DeGeneres sitting with George W. Bush as the Dallas Cowboys took on the Green Bay Packers. There was footage of them laughing with their wives, eating popcorn, and enjoying an NFL game like normal people. And do you remember what happened? People went absolutely nuts. Claws came out. Ellen was vilified.
When Ellen addressed the situation she remarked, "People were upset. They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? A lot of people were mad. And they did what people do when they're mad... they tweet."
In true Ellen fashion she offered this guidance: "But just because I don't agree with someone on everything doesn't mean that I'm not going to be friends with them," she said. "When I say, 'be kind to one another,' I don't only mean the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone."
That’s a simple, but powerful notion: be kind to one another – not just the people that think the same way you do. It’s especially relevant in a quaint community at a crossroads.
In full transparency, I’m no longer a resident of Walden; however, I still call it “home,” and am fortunate to have called the mountain that for all my life. It’s a pleasure watching my young children erupt in laughter going down the slides at the Pumpkin Patch. I remember pitching in at the very first community workdays during its construction as a student at Thrasher Elementary. We surprised my father for his 65th birthday with a splendid evening at the recently transformed McCoy Farm and Gardens. He beamed as he showed me the walls he painted, where he and other dedicated citizens spent hours tearing into overgrown shrubs, and the meticulous detail that went into picking the counter tops for the gut-renovated bathrooms. On the way home, he remarked about the stately new Walden town signs and how delighted he was for Walden to have an identity that people are connected to and proud of.
My father, Bill Trohanis, has been serving the community of Walden now for nearly a decade – originally as an alderman, vice mayor and currently, as mayor. As the community transitions with the rezoning of the Lines Orchids property, I felt like a perspective into my father – and your mayor could be beneficial.
He’s creative, compassionate and mildly obsessive-compulsive about design (I won’t confirm or deny rumors that I lost my first job – mowing our yard – because the stripes in our lawn weren’t cut at perfect 45-degree angles). He’s been known to clean the door jams of our cars with a toothbrush. He spent hours, over multiple visits, with the architect of the new Walden’s Ridge fire hall, ensuring that the aesthetic reflects positively on Walden. Let me assure you – my father loves details (and works tirelessly to ensure they’re perfect) and absolutely wants anything with his name stamped on it, to bring satisfaction to the citizens of Walden.
I’ve wrestled with the dilemma of if – or when – I chime in on the ongoing debate in my hometown. As claims become more outlandish and personal attacks persist, I could no longer sit idly by.
The social contract we hold as individual contributors to the fabric of our community empowers us with the freedom to speak up. Thankfully, we’re all encouraged to voice our opinions, and it’s a crucial element of any community to be able to do so freely. However, a concerning pattern has emerged among some of the residents of Walden and Signal Mountain that is a stark contrast from merely expressing concern, a difference of opinion, or even an impassioned protest.
For those reading this that choose to continue to instigate and torment rather than constructively debate or (heaven forbid) collaborate, before you press send on the next scathing email or spread another piece of misinformation, I hope you pause and think, “Is this the most productive way to make a difference or better yet, to contribute to the well-being of my community… or am I just steamed and looking for a punching bag?” Or further – is it possible to fully appreciate the diverse, basic needs that come from a wide range of household income, or even the influx of young families moving to Walden? It’s a complex, multifaceted issue – with a striking resemblance to the polarizing, tribal political environment we’re trapped in nationally.
Further, for anyone convinced that their own interpretation of what’s best for Walden is superior to those holding office, I encourage you to channel your energy into worthwhile acts of service that make this community a better place to live and enjoy, now and for generations to come.
And for my father when he reads this (who might not be pleased I inserted myself into the situation), I hope you know that I’m so proud of what you and the Board of Aldermen have done – and continue to do – for the community of Walden. I’m proud that you’ve patiently listened to, and considered, all sides of this critical decision. You’ve acted with integrity throughout the entire process, and remained courageously steadfast in the face of threats, lame intimidation tactics and a mirage of poorly-constructed (and some borderline unethical) distractions.
As this issue runs its course, and hopefully soon draws to a close, I challenge each of you – regardless of which side of the fence you’re on – to pour your effort into ensuring Walden continues to be an inclusive, thriving community for all of us – residents (both former and current), visitors or merely passersby.
Remember that story about Ellen and George W. Bush? In the coverage of this story, there were hundreds of negative, blistering tweets from Ellen viewers, but one stood out as particularly poignant: "Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again."
I, too, hope that those on each side of this debate come together to give me faith in Walden once again.
William Trohanis II
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The opinion piece by Mayor Trohanis’s son speaks of “the social contract…” When Mayor Trohanis and Alderperson McKenzie ran for office, made promises, and were elected, part of that “social contract” that they surely must have understood was that the sleepy little town of Walden is not at all well-suited for the type and scope of development that is being brought in.
These two “yes” voters are in violation of their implicit or express promises that they would represent their constituents faithfully and competently.
20 year resident of Walden
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William Trohanis II- Thank you for bringing the proper perspective to this situation in your well written opinion.
Mr. Deere- Reasonable people can disagree in a fair and professional manner. Reasonable points can be made for the development and against the development. When an individual does not agree with your position does not mean that they are necessarily wrong. In this case, I believe the majority of Walden residents think the positives outweigh the negatives for this development.
To “yes” voters- Thank you for representing the Walden constituents faithfully and competently.
30 year resident of Walden