Loose Ends: Debate goes round

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dollyviscardiThe recent flap over the roundabout is a reminder of all the issues that spin round and round in the public forum with no end in sight. No matter what the issue, roundabouts, justice centers or schoolchildren listening to the president on television, sides are drawn quickly. Each year, as local and national brushfires threaten to keep the dialogue dicey, there appears to be no amount of letter writing or meeting attending that doesn’t get rehashed or re-examined using contrasting points of view. Sometimes the most vociferous venters at public meetings are mum when asked about their views later. Other who write letters to the editor regularly hold forth for hours about the issue at hand. The question is not, How do you feel about…? rather What can be done to solve…?
Political hot potatoes get tossed back and forth endlessly with little resolution in sight. Yet, that is the point of the democratic process, isn’t it? However, there seem to be some issues which bring about more rigorous debate. When our community rises up in response to a hot-button issue, some factions sling more mud than is necessary and the community forum gets as bogged down as a mud hole.
The original issue becomes so spattered by the messy debate one is left to wonder how things will settle down in the end. Meeker has survived all sorts of drama — the four-day school and a proposed state prison to name two. Yet, the community repercussions from such divisive discourse can drag on for years, with a pervasive lack of trust evident when other decisions must be made.
Many years ago, the Meeker Chamber of Commerce encountered problems when it tried to meld the opposing viewpoints of lodge owners, hunting guides and outfitters, and town merchants. The charge by the in-town business sector was that the organization had underlying political agendas that did not represent all of its members, as it appeared as if every promotion, and every get-together sponsored by the group was tilted toward the upriver resorts and business. Those were the days when the claim was that the empty office was the result of this spat and that resulted in the small office located in the Fairfield building opening only three afternoons a week.
Today, the organization is taking flak once again, with the charge that some board members are too self-serving to work together with all of the types of businesses that depend on the chamber’s services. It is a problem that is not endemic to Meeker or any other small town, it is human nature. Yet, it is maddening when many of an organization or community members are taking the time to talk their differences through to come up with some sort of a resolution.
Time and again complaints crop up in various political and social arenas, when the “us” and “them” mentality rules. As the granddaughter of a card-carrying Rotarian, I understand the power of these social currents. The riptides move into a community, when the underlying meaning of a disagreement becomes playground politics. The old You’re not the boss of me begins, and round and round it goes.