Some 11 years ago, while making a speech to a large political group, I mentioned that I believed that there were only two things that would keep them from succeeding in their stated goals.
Those two things were apathy and cannibalism. They would lose by staying home on Election Day, or by destroying themselves from within. In today’s political climate, I see similarities to that statement every day. As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve seen political attack ads that should come with an R rating for violence! I just shook my head and said, “It’s just politics” and been glad that kind of thinking doesn’t take place in Tooele County. However, it appears I was wrong. It’s not just politics, and it is taking place in Tooele County. Politics is just the venue. We are all playing in this one. It’s cannibalism at the societal level.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve watched people that I’ve known to be good people completely lose their perspective on things. I’ve watched as we have been polarized on issues running the gamut from property rights/land use issues to what’s the appropriate volume to reprimand a child in Walmart. While they are both important issues, in many (most) cases, they are subject to differences in opinion. Most things are. I have an increasingly vague memory of a time when that was OK. I distinctly remember a time when I could disagree with someone and not be labeled as evil, bad, dumb or corrupt. There was room to disagree. When did it become OK to be disagreeable?
As I’m a political junkie, that’s the world I travel in most of the time. Consequently, that’s where I see most of the examples I see of this behavior. People think it’s ok to question the motives of any elected official that makes a decision based on their own opinion that may not agree with their own. While I agree that asking questions of these people regarding their decisions is not just fine, but our duty, we’ve stopped thinking of them as people. We stopped allowing that they make mistakes, just like we do. They may have made that decision based on information you didn’t have. Or maybe, they have to think of a “bigger picture” than we do. Does that make them bad? It didn’t use to. Why does it now? One of the funniest (not) things I’ve heard lately was that abuse and personal attacks was “part of the deal” when they ran for office. What? We get to forget we’re all humans if they ran for office? Sorry, I don’t see it that way.
Last month, I watched an argument on social media taking place because one group wanted something, and another group was hesitant to give it. I watched personal attacks take place all over Facebook for several days, from both sides. You know what solved it? The two leaders of the respective groups sitting down to breakfast at Virg’s. In an hour, they realized what we should all realize: we have much more in common than we do real differences. In an hour, they solved their problems face to face, and came up with a solution. Just like adults are supposed to.
It’s no secret I count many elected officials as friends at the city, county and state level. Mostly, it’s because they are good people, trying to do good things for their community. I appreciate them because for the last 25 years, I’ve watched what they have to do to get anything accomplished. I understand the process. Is that process perfect? Absolutely not! Are the people in it perfect? Hardly. But, neither are those of us that can’t distinguish between criticizing a decision and criticizing the integrity or character of the person making it.
I don’t expect those of us who love Tooele County to change the trends of society, especially this one, However, I do expect us to do a better job of remembering that the person we are treating so poorly, elected official or not, is our friend or neighbor and someone that loves this community as much as we do.
There’s a new catchphrase I keep hearing when a person or a group gets out of line. Such and such “we’re better than that.” In most cases, we were. I kind of giggle cynically when I hear it now. But, if we as individuals refuse to lower ourselves to this level of treatment of each other, than collectively, Tooele County will be better than that.
In closing, please vote. Vote your conscience, and remember to thank those that voted differently for being an integral part of the process. Then, when it’s all over, support those that won, whether it’s a person or a proposition. We all lose if we don’t. As a county and as a society.
Chris Sloan is broker/owner of Group 1 Real Estate in Tooele and is a member of the Tooele City Planning Commission.