Well, this zealot-driven nastiness that has infected the rest of the nation has now infected our cozy little oasis by the shore.
The Indian River School District is holding a current-expense referendum on Thursday, March 2, asking for approximately $100 more a year on people’s property taxes to make up for state budget shortfalls, an expanding student population and, to some extent, what I personally felt was (at the least) gross mismanagement of the District’s money under their former financial czar.
There is one side of the aisle that is screaming we need to do all we can to provide our local students every opportunity to succeed, and to go to school in as safe an environment as we could possibly provide them. The other side is equally vocal, opining that the District can not be trusted with money, that any increase on property taxes is a burden that some people just can’t afford and that an influx of illegal immigrants is what’s causing the problems — a burden that shouldn’t have to be paid for by hardworking taxpayers.
Both sides have interesting arguments, right?
Then why do so many of us have to act like the other side is filled with drooling incompetents who either, a) don’t care about our local children, or, b) want to destroy our quality-of-life? Like so many across these fruited plains, our community has clearly divided into two camps — and if you are on the other side, well, you’re wrong, and should seek an immediate and comprehensive mental examination.
People, we are allowed to have differing opinions. For the love of God, we are human beings. We should have differing opinions. And in this remarkable country we have a right to voice those opinions, to share information in support of those opinions and to enter intelligent discourse with someone of differing opinions. But we consistency waste those rights by not opening our eyes and ears to other thoughts. We demand people think like we do, and we destroy them if we disagree.
We recently received an email from someone who actively participates in a local forum on Facebook. This person had shared his or her opinion on the referendum and the response from individuals on the other side of the argument was an effort to get people together to boycott that person’s business. I watched another person in that forum state an opinion and get labeled a liberal lunatic that just wants to take everybody’s tax dollars and waste them.
When and where did we lose our way?
I am in no way trying to downplay the significance of this referendum. On the contrary, I truly believe it’s a massive issue, and we have run numerous stories on it in our news hole — from the early stages of school board members discussing the need through the first failed attempt last November and multiple informational meetings by the District, to the current status of impending public vote. It’s big, and it’s vital in any democracy, particularly ours, that passionate people on both sides of major issues share the information they have so it is an informed public that takes to the polls.
But passion and hubris often intersect at dangerous points. Knowing in your heart that what you believe is right for you and yours is admirable. Not understanding that other people have different circumstances, backgrounds and opinions, and might have equally-sound reasons for their beliefs, is dangerous and close-minded.
Have you ever changed your opinion on something when new information is presented? I sure have. The designated hitter and asparagus come to mind immediately, as do my personal opinions on national trade and health care. I felt one way, then very differently when I either found more information or stopped dismissing it as another smelly green thing taking away valuable real estate on my plate from more macaroni-and-cheese.
I know how I’m voting in regards to the current-expense referendum. I know because I’ve read countless inches of copy on the issue from our reporter Laura Walter, and because I’ve spoken with people on both sides of the argument. I’ve juggled the fact that I have a young daughter who will be starting with the District in a few years with the notion that I am a fiscal conservative who deplores wasteful spending and increased taxes.
Please, take out the emotion for a moment and really sit down and think about your decision before you vote. Try arguing for the side you believe you oppose and see if your opinion still remains the same after looking at it from all sides. If it does, then feel comfortable and strong going into that polling place. If you notice you have some doubt, go through the exercise again.
And if you are certain you are on the side of righteousness, express your opinions to others and try to rally support. If nothing else, you’ll be better prepared to handle the arguments presented back to you if you have already considered all angles.
But, please, please, please... do so with respect. Otherwise you are just spewing noise.