Civil discourse

A bit of unpleasantness broke out at a nonprofit board meeting recently. An elected official (no Chapel Hill Town Council member or candidate), clearly frustrated by the discussion, behaved unprofessionally, using what in our family we call a “swear word.”

I blame Trump.

Politics at the national level has become a free-for-all, and the incivility has trickled down to smaller jurisdictions. Even students at UNC noticed the meanness of the race for student body president last spring. Some student voters commented that it had made them rethink aspirations of a career in politics.

And if voters concerned about issues and how decisions made by elected officials impact their lives shut the door on politics, then we’re all doomed. Decisions that affect our quality of life will be made by vindictive office-holders with fragile, oversized egos who have no concern about the welfare of anyone else. Instead of examining issues and seeking solutions, voters and office-holders alike engage in social media smackdowns of those who hold opposing views.

We need to have serious, rational discussions about our future, make decisions and take action. In some areas we are approaching a crisis point.

Globally, water levels are rising as the Earth heats up, and weather patterns are changing to produce fierce storms and droughts that ravage our food production.

Nationally, we have a government that treats people inhumanely and siphons aid away from low-income families and individuals to fatten the bank accounts of the already wealthy.

At the state level, politicians create laws that suppress voters’ rights and cut off access to health care to millions of residents.

Locally, we squabble among factions and prevent ourselves from making decisions that are in the best interest of the community as a whole. Too often, we divide ourselves into teams and strategize to collect the most wins, rather than working constructively to move the town forward as we grow.

So far, the election to fill seats for four council members and a mayor has been civil. Then again, candidate forums won’t begin until next month. All of the candidates are smart and college educated (or will be soon). We have the ability to keep the debates information rich and at a high level of civility. Let’s set an example for jurisdictions around us.

— Nancy Oates

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  1. Plurimus

     /  August 21, 2019

    Nancy, I think this elected official and trump for that matter are symptoms of pent up frustration with politics as usual. People see problems that have obvious bipartisan solutions, yet nothing happens. Worse the extremes (and the media) on both sides produce so much shrill noise that it is hard to agree on facts, or be heard above the din. Ideas are reduced to 140 characters. The fix will not be easy.

  2. Nancy Oates

     /  August 21, 2019

    It would be a lot easier if we weren’t so obsessed with which “team” will win. These are serious issues we need to address and put our best brains to work on. If we get caught up in strategizing who will come out looking good, guaranteed the residents will lose.

  3. Plurimus

     /  August 23, 2019

    Honestly I see only varying shades of one side in the political decisions here. There is an entrenchment that come from a small group who run the political machine in this county. I see the result as largely preordained decisions and yes, the losers are the people who live here.

  4. David Schwartz

     /  August 24, 2019

    The small group who run the political machine in Orange County have a tenuous hold on the levers of governance. Replacing just one of their members in 2020 would enable a new, more informed and thoughtful majority to start moving us in a better direction. Perhaps we can recruit a whip-smart former OC planning commissioner to run . . .