All together now

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Well, we’ve done it. We’ve chosen a group of people to make decisions on our behalf for the next four years. As always, there will be some who think we’ve brought us all a step closer to Paradise, while others will think we’ve been turkeys voting for Thanksgiving. And, as usual, probably the majority of residents don’t really care and probably didn’t even vote. That’s their problem. When they have to pay their taxes, or complain about the state of the sidewalks, roads, water, or whatever, they’ll have absolutely no right to do so.

But the ones who will form the Municipal Councils in North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford are not perfect, not above criticism or help. My hope is that they’ll be wise enough, and humble enough, to talk to the people regularly, consult them when appropriate, and keep them informed of the state of the municipality throughout the next four years, whether the news is good or bad.

But we, the residents, taxpayers or not, also have a job to do. This campaign has been marked by some pretty nasty comments and attitudes throughout. We seem to have caught a spirit of the age that is becoming an increasing concern in our world today. Simply put, it says that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong, and not only wrong, but malicious and deliberately refusing to accept the obvious truth. There’s no room for compromise, or even acceptance that the other sincerely believes in what they say.

The attitude also refuses to accept that others have a right to their opinion at all: that, in fact, their opinion is bias, unthinking and perverse. My opinion, according to this attitude, is simply right, no questioning, no willingness to consider the other’s point of view, because it is completely wrong. This leads to really appalling comments and responses on platforms like Facebook, comments that, in civilised society and conversation, would be unacceptable and disgraceful. But social media seems to encourage that kind of thing.

What do we do about this? We can see the effects of this behaviour in the U.S., where the normal modes of decency and honour have been thrown overboard, and the other is always the enemy. And the enemy is always wrong, and anything is justified in fighting them. Look at Pat Robertson, a man who leads a large Christian movement, commenting on the death of a journalist at the hands of Saudi Arabia. Should the Saudis be punished? Not according to this Republican Christian spokesperson:

“You’ve got one journalist — who knows? Was it an interrogation? Was he assassinated? Were there rogue elements? Who did it?…You’ve got $100 billion worth of arms sales…we cannot alienate our biggest player in the Middle East.” When American Christians put money above morality, their beliefs and witness are totally discredited in the eyes of so many, and they have exchanged the Gospel for political activism and fatally compromised their credibility.

Better, by far, to return to our traditional public moral standards in Canada. Better to listen to the remarks of Robin Jones, speaking on stepping down as Warden of Leeds & Grenville:

“We must remember that what holds us together in Leeds and Grenville is the respect for the collective. It is our right to have and to boldly state our differences, while remembering that we are one community. That the power of language goes both ways – it can be thuggish and part of the problem or positive and part of the solution. Divisive, degrading, offensive and disruptive behaviour is not by chance, but by intent. Hyperbole is the first cousin of untruthful. We need to remember who we are, what our values and principles are and resist those who espouse rhetoric that is a race to the bottom, where nobody wins”.

There is our challenge for the coming four years of these new councils. Working together in a positive, albeit at times critical way, challenging where we feel we should, but refusing to make it a personal attack on those we disagree with, or a denial of their sincerity and integrity. We don’t agree on everything, and perhaps we shouldn’t. We don’t want a one-party state, as it were. Everyone has a right to have an opinion (even journalists and editors!), and we have a right to express them too. If we are to disagree, let’s talk, consult, get together and find a way forward, agreeing to disagree, if that is what it takes.

The new Councils have a responsibility to act with integrity, transparency and honour. They have to avoid disappearing into the usual bureaucratic bubble. We, the citizens who put them there, also have a responsibility: to live together in an active, energetic and productive community, showing respect and tolerance to all, regardless of their opinions. Or is that too idealistic? Let me say it again: North Grenville (and Merrickville-Wolford) deserves better.

1 COMMENT

  1. I think the most difficult thing about municipal politics is the illegality of council getting together informally to iron out their working relationship or difference of opinion. In our council of five if three elected officials get together, even say at Timmy’s for a coffe, then it constitutes a council meeting. So a lot of policy decisions evolve via email or phone messages. This fact leads to more and more “in camera” meetings which the public hates. We leave municipal politicians very little room to work together and that’s a shame. Let’s give the new council some slack from the few unelected people who want to know every detail of council working relationships.

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