Our View: ‘Little platoons’

Posted: January 26, 2013

Edmund Burke, the great Anglo-Irish statesman and father of modern conservatism, was perhaps the first sociopolitical observer to grasp the importance of those “mediating” institutions that rise as bulwarks of an orderly society.

Whether as common as extended families, church congregations, school groups, or civic clubs, they came — and still come — in many forms. Often, they emerge spontaneously to address a yawning need or societal problem.

This latter manifestation we know today as “social-service nonprofits.” Burke, from his vantage point more than two centuries ago, lumped them all together as “little platoons.”

If the description sounds familiar, it may be because it is. We’ve written of them before, but only in a generic way. Today, the subject hits decidedly closer to home. Our “platoons” are under attack, it seems, from an Official Winchester (OW) — or a notable representative thereof — obsessed with metrics such as “median income.” Has OW lost sight of the fact we are not Pleasantville, but a city, albeit small, but a city nonetheless, with all its attendant pathologies?

Such animus initially came to our attention in an Open Forum written by Pastor Roy Menefee of the Winchester Rescue Mission. Mr. Menefee related, in detail, how a “city official” called the existence of his compassionate enterprise into question. Two days later, we had an extended chat with another nonprofit “platoon” leader, who informed us Mr. Menefee has not been the lone recipient of such hectoring.

What’s going on here? OW apparently feels the likes of WATS, C-CAP, Habitat for Humanity, and, yes the Mission drag us down by encouraging society’s unfortunates to remain within our borders. On the contrary, we believe these “platoons” — by filling in the cracks or, rather, by keeping folks from falling into them — are a source of uplift.

Let’s put it this way: If the people who run these organizations were merely in it for a paycheck, they’d have packed it in long ago. Instead, they believe they have a calling, to be laborers in God’s vineyard. As such, they should be lauded rather than disparaged.