It has come to my attention that it is the will of the Rutland City Recreation & Parks Department to impose yet more restrictions on the annual Punk in the Park concert due primarily to the style of music being “grating” to a supposed majority of the residents surrounding the park. I am left to ask myself, “When will Rutland learn?” We talk about holding onto our youth who leave this city for other communities and opportunities at a disturbing rate, we ask why they leave, and then we push pieces of their culture out through discriminatory cultural favoritism. These restrictions send a message to an important demographic that they are not welcome when we should be celebrating our cultural diversity and encouraging our youth to pursue their creative outlets and innovative instincts.
Rutland City’s parks are for all of its people, not just those within a particular chosen cultural boundary, to use and enjoy with respect. This is exactly what Punk in the Park has done; it has given accepting and welcome venue to a diverse subculture within our youth community. How many injuries have occurred during this event? How much property damage has occurred? How much trash has been left behind after?
It is a safe, clean, and family-welcoming event for a culture of people who are part of the solution to the city’s woes, not the problem. I’ve seen far too much youth pushed away (or pushed inside and toward bad habits by a sense of disengagement and disenfranchisement created by this attitude) by the city’s (hopefully waning) good-old-boy network and cultural insularism. This corner of the local music scene has thrived, despite every effort from the city to squash it, since the early 90s (by my own experience; likely even further back). Calling it a “compromise with the community” to even permit this so-called “grating” music is very distinct language which frames this part of Rutland’s community as separate from the recognized Rutland community and is symptomatic of that resistance to a vital piece of our local youth culture.
I have been a part of this culture for more than a quarter of a century. It is different from what you would refer to as mainstream culture. It celebrates diversity like no other. Some may even consider it a haven for Outsider Art, primarily due to its overwhelmingly welcoming attitude.
Its sounds can be loud, sometimes dissonant, and seemingly angry in its catharsis. Its people can look menacing in their nonconformity to current aesthetic trends. However, this culture is one that is exceptionally self-policing and safe. It promotes gender and racial equality.
Some subdivisions of the culture promote a completely drug-free lifestyle, but even more broadly, it supports acceptance of any lifestyle that does not harm others. I enjoy a number of styles of music and find my way into various musical subcultures around New England. In no other subculture have I seen such a positive movement. In no other subculture have I seen such a passionate and resolute intolerance for sexism, racism, ableism, and misogyny. In no other subculture have I seen such an acceptance of people who did not fit in to other cliques and circles. It should go without saying just how much that sense of acceptance and belonging is needed in today’s youth, especially in a region that is hemorrhaging vital age groups.
If you wish to decrease the time frame of musical events in the park, by all means, but do so for them all. If you wish to impose a rational, evidence-based decibel limit on musical events in the park with monitoring, by all means, but do so for them all. If you wish to require extraneous insurance for musical events in the park, by all means, but do so for them all. After 11 Punk in the Park events, when has that insurance actually had a claim filed on it? Punk in the Park and this local culture has done nothing to give pause or demonstrate a need for extra restraint and restriction for a safe and respectful event and has proven itself to be more family-friendly and incident free than other city gatherings like the Vermont State Fair and Friday Night Live (or whatever the constant rebranding has it called now). Giving this musical and cultural event heavier restrictions without causal incidence is cultural discrimination.
This is a public conversation. Is cultural favoritism really what needs to be a prominent piece of Rutland’s image right now, of all times?
Scott Frank, Rutland