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Disagreeing is an important part of democracy, but not to become evil E-mail
Opinion
Tuesday, 05 December 2017 13:38

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L&T Publisher Earl Watt



Watching the news, I heard one representative who opposes the current tax cut proposal refer to it as “armageddon,” and it was a reminder of how we have lost the art of disagreeing with one another in a respectful way.

A recent letter to the editor by Reita Isaacs has also shown that this venom has reached our community as well.

It seems that if someone doesn’t agree with out point of view, they must be evil, and we go out of our way to villainize them.

Reita has been attending city commission meetings on a regular basis, and while she has held the city’s leadership accountable for not addressing what she believes to be poor cable service, she has also questioned the wisdom of the new city manager’s contract which came up in an instant, with no prior knowledge to the public, was passed 4-1 after two 10-minute executive session meetings, and she can’t even get an answer as to whose idea it was to rework the contract a year ahead of schedule and on the eve of three new commissioners taking their seats.

She, like many, have every right to be disappointed in the process. But she has also been an example of how to question leadership without attacking people personally, and I applaud her for that.

In her letter, she said that Mayor Joe Denoyer had received hate mail, phone calls and even verbally assaulted in public.

We have to be above that.

Likewise, commissioners should also be above the name-calling and personal attacks when someone questions their actions.

Some of the commissioners think it’s funny to refer to me as the “paperboy” on social media because we have presented some of these concerns to the public.

What they may not know is I consider myself a paperboy. I threw the newspaper when I was in grade school, Route 11, Fifth to Seventh, Clay Street to Western Avenue.

Over the years, I’ve worked in every department and at some time or another done every job. But none of them, even the job I do now as publisher, is any more important than the job I did as a paperboy or the job the carriers do today. I believe every job counts here at the office or at any organization.

Everybody’s job is necessary to produce and deliver the newspaper, and it couldn’t be done without any of them.

Trying to belittle me by calling me a paperboy only demonstrates that there are some who believe that some jobs must be less important than others. I guess they may also believe the same about the organization they serve, that perhaps some employees are less important in their organization than others.

That’s why we have to be careful how we respond to these personal attacks, and I will admit that I have been part of the problem in this arena as well. 

It’s hard not to get angry when you believe something you love is being mistreated.

For many of us, we love our town. It’s not just a place to live, it is a part of our family itself.

I am a fifth generation Liberal Kansan. My great-great grandparents, the Comstocks, are buried in the Liberal Cemetery, as our my great-grandparents, the Walkers, my grandmother Thelma Welch and both of my parents.

We have always been a working class, blue-collar family. I grew up in the neighborhoods on the west side of town, just a few blocks away from Garfield Elementary.

This town means something more to me than just a dot on the map, and it does to a great many people.

As we explore ways to move forward, we will disagree on which path to take.

I disagree with the way the process has been handled, but I will not villainize those that have chosen a different approach. That’s what elections are for, and the people have spoken.

We have to be able to disagree with one another and still seek out areas of common ground.

Simply put, we have to be better than Washington, D.C.

We have great people in Liberal trying to accomplish great things. Many times we may agree, and sometimes we may disagree, and that is important for democracy. Every idea, every approach has its chance, and then we vote.

When we try to make other views evil, we have lost sight of what democracy is all about, even on the local level.

Frustration? Sure. Calling for change? Absolutely. But running those with which we disagree through the mud? We have to be better than that.

It doesn’t mean that changes won’t be made, but that they are done with dignity, respect, and that we can disagree without having to call the other person evil.

It’s never too early to make a resolution, and it is my hope we can all take a better tone in the New Year. 

We still have to report the news, and that won’t change. But the social media name-calling won’t be coming from me. While I disagree with the city’s code of conduct policy for commissioners because I believe it is used to manipulate elected officials from questioning the actions of those hired to work on behalf of all of us, I believe the voters should maintain the ultimate code of conduct on elected officials.

At the end of the day, we should all abide by a code of conduct that doesn’t have to be a policy but is simple common decency.

It is acceptable to disagree. It is acceptable to want to make changes. Be civil when doing so.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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