"These are the times that try men's souls."
~Thomas Paine, "The Crisis"
Paine's words concerned relations between the colonies and England. Yet I am reminded of them sitting here today after the events of this week.
And, not only are these trying times, they also are opportunities to gauge one's character.
While this week provided more than enough fodder around the water coolers of Alpena and debate within the coffee shops of the community, it also provided citizens with glimpses into the people impacted by the events.
Most residents remained in a state of shock throughout the week, trying to process the events and understand the motivation behind it. It wasn't so much whether a person agreed, or disagreed about Monday's council action, it was that they were trying to filter what had happened and make sense of it.
What is the city going to do next?
Where are we headed? What is the vision?
The good, the bad and the ugly all were on display in different ways.
Some will maintain Councilman Shawn Sexton should have remained in the city's executive session Monday evening to cast a vote, while others will applaud his action of taking a stand and making an example, then going public with what was happening behind the closed doors.
Some will fault Mayor Matt Waligora as an evil Darth Vader, unfairly sending a city manager packing. Others will see him as a courageous crusader, willing to do something very unpopular regardless of the political consequences.
We saw grace in the midst of a difficult time when former City Manager Thad Taylor shared with readers his biggest regret from Monday's decision was that he would now have to leave the city he and his family had come to love, had called home, and the place where he and his wife had planned to sink their roots deep into upon retirement.
Was Monday's action a courageous stand in charting a new direction or a disastrous decision destined to fail?
Were votes cast, decisions made and things said rooted in frustration or reality?
Was Thad Taylor a pawn, a player or a puppet?
Are Mike Nunneley and Dave Karschnick devious schemers or visionary strategists?
Were Sam Eiler and Shawn Sexton poor judges of character, or realistic men who knew that with proper guidance and direction, all things are possible.
These are the emotions, the questions and the frustrations city residents are grappling with today.
And yes, they do "try men's souls."
As for the answers to all the questions above, only time will tell.
Yet there will be glimpses into the ultimate answers, with the first being the eventual adoption of a city budget - work on which should begin in the weeks ahead.
Last year's "Authors in the Fall" featured speaker, Bob Woodward, shared with readers in "All the President's Men" this advice from his and Carl Bernstein's main source: "Follow the money."
The same holds true in local government. If you want answers, follow the money and see where it leads, whether that path takes you to campaign contributions or, in this instance, a proposed city budget. The budget will quickly show residents where the priorities are for city officials, and where the major changes lie from the current city budget. It will be one of the first opportunities residents have to gain practical insight into the direction the city is headed.
Little by little we will gain more insight. What a crazy week this has been.