People must find ways to agree to disagree
Remember as a kid when someone other than your parents took you task on some sort of bad behavior? Maybe it was a grandparent who rarely raised their voice or a neighbor or even a stranger â€“ someone who didn't typically call you out or lay down the law.
It felt odd, maybe a bit more intimidating to hear from someone like that. Perhaps it got your attention and corrected the behavior. Maybe hearing it from someone other than the usual authority figure made the difference.
This past Tuesday evening, during the start of a Prineville City Council meeting, Mayor Jason Beebe made a public appeal to his constituents. He urged those who were confronting county health department employees or public school leaders about recent COVID mandates to leave them alone. He stressed that they are just doing their job and reacting, like the rest of us, to the rules we have been dealt by the state or the feds.
He added that people should have a voice and be able to express their frustrations and grievances â€“ in fact people are offered that option at each city council meeting â€“ but he felt the need to come to the defense of people who are doing their best with what they have.
It was the first time in years, maybe ever, that a mayor made a public appeal of this nature â€“ not in response to behavior at a meeting, but to actions outside it.
And it didn't end there. Councilor Jeff Papke spoke next, lamenting the political division of our society and the personal divides it has created. He stressed that disagreement is fine but pointed out that the ability to have those disagreements, those healthy discussions, has seemingly eroded. He brought up Sept. 12, 2001, one day after the horrific terrorist attacks that altered our country forever. He recalled how everybody united as Americans that day in the face of major adversity â€“ but now, again facing adversity of a different nature, we are divided and divisive in our speech and actions. He openly pined for a return to civil discussion where people can disagree without the venom that bleeds into those disagreements. People needed to learn how to agree to disagree.
The council later discussed a resolution that takes an official stance against the new vaccination mandates. Not everyone agreed, but the councilors were able to discuss their views in a civil manner, reach a consensus and take action.
Regular readers of this opinion page have probably encountered these sentiments in the past few months â€“ it has become a recurring refrain in recent editorials. But when elected officials commit meeting minutes to correct behavior, it suggests the message needs repeated.
Things are getting ugly, and they are going to get uglier. State and federal leaders are so determined to increase vaccination rates and slow the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant that they are making inoculation a condition of employment for millions. The deadline for these mandates is Oct. 18, less than a month away, and numerous citizens and local governing bodies are resisting. People in favor of vaccinations are going to show their support and those who are vaccine hesitant will fight back.
The likelihood of bigger, uglier fights among citizens will grow. The desire to take the fight to public entities who are following state and federal mandates will escalate. People are upset, very upset and the political and cultural climate is ripe for increasingly heated behavior.
But will that behavior help? Will shouting at a person who is just doing their job make a difference or make a really bad situation even worse?
Perhaps it is time as members of the public to step back and take a page from the city council. Not only should people be willing to disagree in a civil manner, they should be able to unite, discuss an issue and present a well-thought-out solution.
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