Dear LibDem/Green Colleagues,
Your decision to plough ahead with creating an SODC calendar for “socially important topics and campaigns” comes as no surprise after two years of your grandstanding at council meetings.
Apparently you are determined to use Council resources to pursue a divisive agenda at the expense of services on which SODC is actually supposed to focus. And in the meantime, the quality of waste collections decline, the wait for garden waste bins lengthens, the enforcement of illegal building diminishes, and council-run leisure centres remain a mess.
You say you are trying to create a policy of inclusivity. But by choosing to support some interests and groups, you are actively determining that others are not worthy of support. Let’s take a look…
You’ve decided to mark Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish festivals. But not Buddhist or Sikh. Really? Do we not value our Sikh and Buddhist residents in South Oxfordshire and elsewhere? I suggest you look again at that. Oh, and if we’re marking belief systems, my small focus group of teenagers reveals enthusiasm for a day to celebrate Paganism (21 June?). How about that? Just bear in mind those teenagers will be voting in two years’ time.
You identify five days, weeks or months, for issues relating to mental illness. It’s a hugely important issue - but isn’t medical illness, too? Nothing for that, though. Not cancer, not heart disease, not strokes.
I’m sure we all feel sympathy for people experiencing loneliness, particularly acute during COVID lockdowns. You’re offering us a week for that (National Loneliness Awareness Week - June). But nothing for National Grief Week (December) for people suffering from bereavement. Huh.
To go along with National Learning Disabilities Week (June), and Neuro-diversity Day (March), shouldn’t we commemorate World Brain Day (July) to mark neuro-generative diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers which affect so many people in this District?
Oh, and Big Energy Saving Week - in JANUARY? Seriously? You’re going to tell people to turn down the heating and wear a thick jumper in the coldest, darkest month of the year? No wonder you’ve also decided to mark National Stress Awareness Month (April).
Meanwhile, your decision to celebrate Great British Spring Clean in September (What? Here in the Northern Hemisphere?!) is just funny.
But there is a really serious side to this. Because, even though the stated aim of your policy is to ‘bring communities together’ within your issues that distinguish and separate us you fail to include a day that brings people together irrespective of the challenges that face us. A day that celebrates our community as a whole.
I think we members of SODC are proud to be part of this ancient polity of the United Kingdom. Our council, other local authorities, town and parish councils; public services, businesses, volunteers. And, you know, the people. This incredible, imperfect, idiosyncratic tapestry that is our country. And it’s so important that, while we acknowledge and respect our differences, we also pause - and recognise the extraordinary value of this Society of ours which is so robust and resilient.
Because when we stop recognising that - and loving it - we risk losing it.
I regret we don’t have a United Kingdom National Day. But we could celebrate this on the Queen’s Birthday (June) which is the closest we get. Or, if that’s too monarchical for you, maybe on St George’s Day (23 April). This isn’t an appeal to shallow or mischievous jingoism. So if you struggle with the patriotism implicit in that (and if so, let’s talk separately), then how about including Oxfordshire Day (19 October) in the list?
Whatever. Just choose a day and invite us to celebrate the most socially significant issue of all: the things that unite us and make us strong.