In our last issue we published an article entitled "An American Avatar: Mel Lyman." It was an account by a regular Fusion contributor, Paul Mills, of Mel Lyman and his relation to the Fort Hill community in Boston, sometimes referred to as the Lyman Family. The article, described here as "a look from outside in," was researched and written over a period of several months.
Members of the Fort Hill community, the people whose lives were in part described in the article, complained emphatically about what was written. They said, in some cases correctly, that the article contained errors of fact, distorted incidents and misinterpretations. They protested these as well as the impression of Mel Lyman and of Fort Hill created by the article.
The people from Fort Hill have not sought a forum in Fusion for a refutation of the article. They have made an effort to correct in my view the impression of who they are and what they do.
At their request and invitation I visited them on several occasions after the appearance of the article. Their intention, plainly, was to offer me a perspective on themselves different from the one offered our readers in the article we published. In a sense, they wish me to give an account, in fewer words, of Fort Hill.
There are quite a few people living on Fort Hill. Most went unmentioned in the article about Mel Lyman. They live in a dilapidated section of Boston, in houses that required and received extensive renovation and repair. They are a well-organized group of people, resourceful and rather hard-working. They quite openly have a simple relationship with Mel Lyman: they consent to his wishes, and they derive a sense of purpose from that consent.
There are consequences to their decision to live together. They have an understandable wariness, understandable, given where they live and, in their view, the kind of press they get. They can be communicative and hospitable; they can also be self-protective and harsh. As with most of us, the situation usually determines the attitude.
The article we published was a comprehensive one, in its intent and in its scope. It was not meant to be a malicious and inaccurate report. This editorial is not nearly so broad, for obvious reasons; nor does it propose to defend or adjust the article already written. Its purpose is a simple one: to note down the fact that on Fort Hill live people who can be described in various ways and defined in the limiting fashion of all reporting, people whose lives are important in much the same way that the lives of any of us are important - because, in some termianl way, they are very much the same.