A Call For Civility

Well, today is April 15, the dreaded tax day.  I just finished up and e-filed my returns.  Man, when you have to pay even more into the system, it is really tough.  Unfortunately, I just don’t simply have hundreds or thousands of dollars simply lying around, just waiting for me to hand them over to the federal and state government.  My non-discretionary spending these last couple of months has been practically nonexistent!  But enough on Tax Day…I’ll save that for the article about today’s Tea Party event downtown.

The wait is over; The Harrisonburg Times is now online.  Sure, I still have a lot of unanswered questions.  Will it bleed liberalism?  Will a conservative like me have a welcome place?  Only time will tell.  I encourage you to trot on over to the Harrisonburg Times’ website to check it out.   As you know, on The Virginia Conservative, I freely share my ideology.  For my first submission for the Times, I chose a bit of neutral ground, calling for a shred of civility in the political debate.  Although I encourage you to browse the site to get a better feel for it, you can find my post, “The Need for Political Dialogue” here.  As for the article itself, I like the picture the mayor selected, showing an elephant and donkey butting heads.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the whole Republican vs. Democrat, liberal vs. conservative thing that we fail to realize that our ideological counterweights have as much of a right to an opinion as we ourselves do.  Politics shouldn’t always be about us against them.  So many talking heads on both the left and the right spend most of their time vilifying and belittling the other side that neither can legitimately offer any sort of rational political discourse.  Well, does that failing mean we should just give up our beliefs?  Should I stop being a conservative?  Absolutely not!  After writing the Times article, I remembered an event from my college days when I met a now good friend for the first time.  As is typical with my discussions, the conversation eventually turned to politics.  Do you know what I said to him as soon as I learned that he was a liberal?  “Please don’t hate me for being a conservative!”  It’s true.  Can you imagine?  Unfortunately, especially in political circles, we learn at an early age to hate those who are different, those with whom we disagree.  As a result, many of us become timid, afraid to speak out or take sides for fear of condemnation.  I learned that lesson the hard way from a few liberals, but I assure you that I know a handful of conservatives who act the very same way!  Sadly, that hard truth echoes in our government today.  Those with power subdue those without.  Speeches are just for show.  There is no dialogue, no free exchange of ideas, just calculated vote tallies and predetermined outcomes.  Is this conclusion the desired end result of the great American experiment…to live in a society where political questioning is an outdated relic of the “old days”?  Do we now toil in the age of dictatorship of the majority?  Is there no recourse?

Yes, my friends, there is a solution.  We need political dialogue in the home, in the school, in the workplace, in the media, in the church, in the political parties, and especially on the ever-expanding Internet.  Be a conservative (ideally), be a libertarian, or heck, and even be a liberal or an authoritarian if you must.  Just get informed and remember always to be polite, especially with those who hold an opinion different than your own.  Your enemies may mock your beliefs and, if that fails, they may try to tear you down personally, but stand firm.  You have as much a right to your opinion as they to theirs.  Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to be threatened into silence or to resort to their bullying tactics.  By doing so, not only do you and your cause become weaker, but society suffers too.  Personally, I may strongly disagree with you and offer my own opinions, but as long as you are knowledgeable and courteous, I will respect you.  The great questions of the day should not be decided by blood and iron or through fear, ignorance, or intimidation, but rather as a result of well-reasoned discussion and a respect for the law and humanity.  Hold on just a minute…am I in the wrong business?

A Sign of The Times

I recently read on hburgnews.com that the mayor of Harrisonburg, Kai Degner, was looking to create a new publication, the Harrisonburg Times.  I’m sure that my initial reaction was much the same as yours.  The mayor wants to run a newspaper?  Wouldn’t such a periodical be little more than a propaganda mill?  Although government control of the press was natural in Soviet Russia, don’t we enjoy the freedom of the press?  But then I got to thinking.  On the other hand, given that most of our public offices are merely part time positions, wouldn’t the mayor as a private citizen have as much a right to run a paper as anyone else?  I’ll admit that the thought of a new paper intrigued me.  Although I have no real complaints with the Daily News Record, this part of the state does need a new forum for political discourse.  Far too often the letters to the editor are poorly written, littered with outlandish political statements, and have little or faulty reasoning.  In addition, I don’t think anyone can honestly say that the paper doesn’t have a conservative slant.  (Being a conservative, I have no qualms about a conservative newspaper, but I’m sure some of our liberal friends would prefer a more “progressive” outlet.)  In general, I believe many portions of the state suffer from an acute lack of political awareness and understanding which can stifle dialogue and create hostility toward differing opinions.  A new paper could work wonders to correct this problem.

As I love both politics and writing, I quickly applied to write for this new publication.  However, in my inquiry, one burning question haunted my thoughts.  Would a conservative such as myself be welcome, or would I be ostracized?  On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Degner scheduled a meeting for potential writers to gather at the Blue Nile Café downtown.  Although I don’t have an exact count, I would say that there were between twenty to twenty-five folks who arrived to learn more.  Of course there were a handful of politically minded citizens in the group, but far more expressed an interest in discussing a variety of topics such as gardening, volunteerism, religion, tourism, or green technology to name just a few.  I would wager that I was likely the only conservative in the crowd.  I earlier joked that if they accepted me, I would be the “Alan Colmes” of the group.  For those who don’t get the reference, for a number of years, Mr. Colmes was the token liberal on Fox News.

Mr. Degner explained that his reasoning for creating the Harrisonburg Times was twofold.  First, and most importantly, it is very difficult to find free news about Harrisonburg on the internet.  Second, he felt that the local media outlets don’t sufficiently cover all the news stories in the region.  Third, although not discussed too much, was dissatisfaction with the conservative aspect of our local media.  I won’t lie; I winced every time anyone uttered the word “progressive”.  I guess the term liberal has fallen out of favor and progressive is now its “politically correct” replacement.  I did find it interesting that the mayor mentioned to me that I was free to criticize him in the Harrisonburg Times.  Even though I may take him up on this offer at some point, unlike some Republican commentators, I don’t automatically try to tear down and besmirch every official who happens to have a D beside his or her name.  But for more information about the Harrisonburg Times, you should visit their website.

The first issue of the Harrisonburg Times should be available online on April 15.  My greatest concern is that the publication will be a liberal hotbed.  That issue not withstanding, I’m keeping an open mind and I fully intend to submit an article.  Although I’m still pondering what to write about, I’ve got a few ideas.

Tune in on April 15 to find out more!