Words Matter

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published November 14, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

At the Sept. 9 Select Board meeting, I listened as the chair spoke about how it’s important to make the town more welcoming, but ironically, her statements were only in regard to the town’s support of expanded public art programs.

As a full-time working artist myself, I appreciate more support for the arts and recognize the positive impact they have in the town. But at the same meeting, those of us who spoke out critically about the town’s mishandling of the Lt. Pedrini’s case, after last year’s discovery of his racist and hate-filled columns in a statewide police newsletter, were dismissed and scolded and told “words matter.” This was even more ironic as there has been so little acknowledgement that his words, which suggested use of violence towards refugees, progressive activists, people of color, disabled and others, were words that matter and there has been little attempt to hear the words of those who have been the most harmed by them and no longer feel safe here. Nationally, we have seen, increasingly, the power of words to incite violent acts and we should not be condoning them here in Arlington.

As noted in the report commissioned by the Consensus Building Institute about how to heal the town on this issue and emphasized by an Arlington Advocate headline, the “town should listen to it’s residents more.” Words do matter, and the town needs to make it clear to those in the community — especially those groups targeted by Pedrini — that the officer’s words are both racist and unacceptable. They need to work together with concerned residents to create policies and procedures that ensure this cannot happen again here.

As someone who has experienced intimidating behavior by a police officer, I know how frightening it can be, so putting Pedrini back on the force with a gun scares me. In order for the town to truly be more welcoming and inclusive, as well as feel safe, the needs and concerns of all of its residents, particularly immigrants, people of color and other vulnerable people targeted by his words need to be considered. The town needs to listen and act with our shared best interests in mind.

Robin Bergman
Park Avenue