To the Editor:
I wanted to wait a few days before I replied to the article about Laurie Nigro’s decision to retire her column. To be transparent, I do know Laurie. Our paths have crossed multiple times, and I grew up with her husband. I did not have a chance to read Laurie’s last column, I don’t always read them, but when I saw the Facebook post announcing it, I had a feeling she was going to be in for some deserved criticism. What she received was well outside the scope of what I would have anticipated, and I find this trend incredibly disturbing.
This is a local paper, and we – readers and writers alike – are all neighbors. Laurie wrote satire, and while she was taking the events from life, she presented them through the lens of satire. Sometimes she was the foil, more often it was her husband. Still, it’s understandable that some people could have read her articles straight, making her family seem slightly unhinged, almost Adams Family-esque.
Regardless of how you took Laurie’s stories, straight or mischievous, the Internet has given us this great ability to comment on everything. We, it seems, haven’t figured out how to use this very well. While many of us comment in tone with the articles, reacting to the humor or the zaniness, others seem to feel the need to condemn or belittle the author. Perhaps this is one way of expressing our gut emotion about the content, but it’s a horrible thing that has become normalized.
As I mentioned, this is a local paper written about a small town. When we shame people, it really isn’t about us trying to tell them how we feel, it’s about trying to silence them. Often, it’s because they share a view with which we disagree. Wouldn’t it be easier if all the voices we read agreed with our worldview? Not really: when opposition is silenced, you no longer have a democratic society. When people are actually afraid to express themselves out of fear of retribution, even if that’s in the form of harsh commentary, we lose something important to society. We lose our freedom of expression, and we didn’t even need our government to take it away, we imposed that upon ourselves.
What I’m saying is that while I didn’t always agree with Laurie’s point of view, her ability to have and express it freely is of paramount importance. Writing a weekly column is tough enough; making it regularly funny is magical. I give her a lot of credit and am saddened by the loss of her voice. But more than that, I am saddened by the way it happened. Riverhead, we can do better: we have to. If this great little town can’t recognize our neighbors and treat them with respect, what’s to stop our governments from doing the same? When we willingly silence the voices around us, we shouldn’t be surprised when out government starts doing it too.
Laurie, I am sure you didn’t bow out of your column because you were intimidated – you’re too strong for that – perhaps it was just time. I wish you luck in your next endeavor. I’m sure it will bring humor to us all and look forward to its arrival.
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