Last week, I described part of my experience covering the local caucuses. I ended that column with a challenge, saying we should discuss our differing politics with our friends and neighbors and promote healthy discussion.
Well, that's exactly what's happened — more directly than I expected.
A reader called me personally to talk about what I had written the previous week. I'm happy to say it was a healthy discussion and pointed out a blind spot in my piece. Again, this is a good thing. In fact, when our newsroom discusses the ins and outs of crafting a column, it's not uncommon for us to mention the importance of addressing aspects of a particular issue which don't support our personal point of view.
In this case, the reader took issue with my specifying which caucus I was at when an individual earnestly asked me not to take their picture. Budding journalist that I am, checking off the five W's — who, what, where, when, why (and how for good measure) — is particularly important, so I didn't think twice about including the specifics. In fact, the central point of that column stemmed from a statement that particular caucus-goer made, indicating that publishing certain photos might cause them issues at work — a statement which this week's caller feels may have been misinterpreted. I'm confident in what I heard, but I'll admit there is that potential — me being human and all.
But while the caller and I both agreed everyone ought to feel free to publicly express their political opinions without fear of social retaliation, it was proposed to me that specifying the caucus could make it seem as if the issue were a one-way street.
A fair point.
And, I agree we should all realize a lack of civility can come from either side of the aisle. I won't go so far as to say the jabs and jeers are dolled out equally in Dickinson County, but I also can't deny the slings and arrows fly in both directions.
Like I said, there was a blind spot, and I hope this column remedies it to a degree. No paper's opinion page should be a stoic monolith of words. A community's opinion page should unmistakably be the words of the people we know — be it me, be it you, be it staff, student or senator. And if we're to avoid petrifying ourselves in the ink on the page, we must — must — be able to admit when we fail to consider something and adapt our viewpoints when presented with new information.
Admittedly, I confined my column to the happenings I witnessed, but I failed to apply what I had seen to a broader spectrum — in some ways, betraying my own point, but by the same token we can all learn something. Currently, one party is the minority in Dickinson County, but that may not always be the case. No single party has the monopoly on the moral high ground, which leaves us as individuals the responsibility of treating each other with civility at all times — regardless of which political hue has the upper hand at the moment and always with the realization that the power of the majority is only temporary.
When all the political labels are stripped away and all the campaign platforms torn up, we are all people with common basic needs and inalienable rights. So, no voter, caucus-goer or author of a letter to the editor should be chastised for their pursuit of such for the betterment of themselves or others. At our core, we are all the same, and we must not only realize this but treasure it. We may disagree on many things, but civility pushes us toward broader perspectives and greater communal goals.
I can say that with certainty after this week's call. Disagreement was had. Anger was not. The discussion, thanks to it's even-tempered nature, pointed me toward a piece of the puzzle I had indeed overlooked, and it spurred me to use what power I'm allowed on these pages to share what I learned. If I can say anything of the experience, it is this:
Your opinion page is certainly doing what it's meant to do – prompting growth through civil discussion.