At today’s Council meeting, before announcing his decision to remain on Council, Joe Graves shared his message of personal loss in the face of some withering criticism, not about his political views, but directed at him personally. We have become so divided as a society by the intensely divisive nature of today’s politics, it is being expressed more and more in everyday life as personal attacks, often on strangers. Winning public office is a double edged sword – your supporters will agree with your decisions and those who do not agree with you will criticize you. But these criticisms have degenerated into personal, hurtful attacks. For Councilman Graves, his desire to open up the local economy won rave reviews from those who agree and concerns about the spread of corona virus from those who disagree. At least that should be where it ends. But instead, he said attacks on his family and him personally led to his initial decision to step down.
A few days ago, while my wife and I were shopping in Publix, a woman with two young boys pushed her shopping cart up close behind us and when I glanced back at her, she was angry. Now she could have just gone around us, but the fact we were wearing masks while she and her rambunctious boys did not, signaled to me her belief everything is back to normal so why are we still acting like there is a problem? Well folks, there is a problem, in fact, several problems (no cure for COVID-19, lack of widespread testing). Just because one side is advocating “open the economy” and the other is saying “not yet,” doesn’t mean you should show personal animosity to strangers you perceive are not in agreement with you.
This is not just a local phenomenon. Hardly a day goes by when we see reports around the country of customers attacking store employees trying to enforce store mask policy, even resulting in one case of murder.
Whatever happened to simply “agreeing to disagree” over political differences? Whether this more hostile, schoolyard response to differences of opinion is the result of what we see playing out in national politics, or an expression of our frayed nerves over being self-isolated for two months, the result is unacceptable. This is not who we are.
We used to set an example to the world. Now we aren’t even setting an example for our kids.