Shining a light on rights for all

Swampscott is preparing to host parent-teacher discussions on mental health and anxiety. Marblehead’s Task Force on Discrimination is sponsoring a March transgender awareness forum and Nahant has laid the groundwork for fighting anti-immigrant bias.

These three initiatives represent persistent efforts in three communities to give everyone a voice and banish discrimination. Swampscott’s efforts to address anxiety builds on a strong push by School Superintendent Pamela Angelakis to address student mental health and take a head-on approach to potentially destructive behavior among young people.

Her attention to subjects such as depression and anxiety deserve praise. Marblehead’s Task Force has already received praise from anti-discrimination organizations for fighting anti-Semitism and focusing on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. Task force members merit praise for expanding the discrimination discussion to a community-wide forum.

That is the approach Nahant librarians took when they invited town residents to read a book about Muslims in America. The town-wide initiative offered an opportunity for a broad discussion and education effort aimed at distilling a topic resonating across the country into a local conversation.

It would have been easy for residents and officials in Marblehead, Swampscott and Nahant to shy away from controversial topics or invoke a misguided reference to personal privacy in rejecting discussions about mental health and bias.

Informed and intelligent residents in each of these small towns understand that controversy cannot be avoided in an age of instant social media communication. The challenges and controversies unfolding in the big world no longer stop short of small town borders.

People suffering from mental health problems are fighting for insurance parity. Transgender Americans are championing their rights and immigrant bias is an exercise in denying the history of this country and the people who built it.

It is exciting to think about equality and enlightenment advocates in Nahant, Swampscott and Marblehead combining forces to host region-wide discussions on bias, mental health and other topics to bring together people from across the North Shore. Honest and impassioned discussions are the answer to ensuring everyone in every community can stand up and be counted and contribute.

The best defense of democracy is the proverbial light of inquiry every citizen is capable of shining into our nation’s and our society’s dark corners.

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