By Ken DeLaat
I’ve covered the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners for many years.
During that time some who have served on that board have fallen short of the (admittedly high) expectations personally held for elected officials, some have just appeared to be over their heads and some have done very well at what is no easy task (when done very well, that is).
There are no delusions on my part about these folks possessing an utmost dedication to public service, nor am I a believer that all who take a seat on the board are motivated by altruism.
But these are decent human beings trying to do a good job and voting the way they vote because they believe it’s best for the county.
A recent ad in a local shopping guide that states it was paid for by Commissione Lavern Willett takes a bit of a U turn on the path of polite discourse and denigrates into name calling when he refers to his fellow commissioners as “weasels”.
Of course there is no way of knowing if Mr. Willett’s reference to the long and slender member of the Mustela family that includes ferrets, and minks was meant to be derogatory. I’ve never really known any weasels personally though my daughter once had a ferret who I encountered a time or two. The only time I’ve seen a mink (or ex-mink perhaps) was as part of a coat or wrap.
My hunch is it wasn’t meant as a compliment and if so I am truly disappointed because there is no long game here. The action, regardless of his motivation for this behavior, seems to have no genuine purpose other than being a rather anemic attempt at ridiculing his colleagues on the board. Even the always shaky ‘ends justify the means’ argument doesn’t come into play because the ends are so nebulous.
What I want from my elected officials is the ability to engage in productive dialogue. This is not a pie in the sky expectation thing like ‘statesmanship’ or ‘leadership’. Those qualities rarely appear at any level of politics. It’s just the bare minimum of dialogue that is desired.
And name calling does one thing effectively and that is to shut down dialogue.
And when you shut down dialogue within the realm of government you forfeit any opportunity to impact decision making, become isolated from the process and are no longer effective. Your position as an elected official is compromised.
Years ago a woman in a therapy group I co-facilitated shared a revelation she had in her relationship after a recent conflict.
“When you’re in an argument and they call you a bitch? That’s because you’re winning. No one resorts to name calling when they’re ahead, it’s only when they’re losing big time.”
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