We’ve had a mini-explosion lately of local Web-enabled groups claiming to speak for one cause or another. Other than anonymity, a common factor is their general negativity.
One such group, in fact, even embraces the name of C.A.V.E. people – Citizens Against Virtually Everything – apparently failing to understand that the title is a public dunce cap for the willfully ignorant.
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver responded recently to those small (and often small-minded) groups, noting that very little of what they do promotes progress, but instead attacks anyone involved in making the community tick.
When private citizens or public officials are viciously attacked for voicing their opinions, it’s understandable that some people would want to shield themselves with anonymity. Yet when people use their anonymity to deliver such attacks, it not only makes it less likely that good people will be willing to speak out, but also more likely that those who do speak out are even less civil. And the cycle continues.
The answer isn’t more attacks. It’s more civil dialogue.
In that regard, I’ve been impressed with several local activists – including a couple who probably don’t consider themselves activists.
Most visible this week were the “lactivists” who gathered at the Evans courthouse as part of a group aiming to protect mothers from legal harassment when nursing their babies in public.
It’s odd to see the emotions stirred by such natural activity. After our story previewing the event, one woman said the nursing mom pictured in the paper should be arrested for indecent exposure – except there was no exposure, at all.
None of this would be an issue in a developing country where there are few options for feeding babies other than the correct one: breast milk. Yet here we are supposedly so civilized that women are threatened with public shaming if they do what’s natural. Bizarre.
Two other citizens were less visible in their efforts, but also are commendable.
Jim Mayfield recently visited county commission sessions to ask about enforcement of tree-planting rules for a small commercial development. He didn’t seem to feel like the county gave him a very respectful reception, and I tend to agree. Some of his details were incorrect, but he still earns accolades for being willing to speak up.
Also speaking out was Howard Baker. The county’s two dog parks have proven to be hugely popular, and Baker asked for more lights at Riverside. The county is having the lights installed.
I thought about all these folks as I followed the story of talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s insulting comments about a college student who spoke up on an issue she found important.
The fact that he took such a harsh tone with a private citizen who was voicing her opinion, whether he agreed or not, was just despicable.
Whatever their issue, and as long as they are civil, citizens should be encouraged to speak out – not discouraged through public ridicule. To do otherwise is to validate the very anonymity that so many public figures complain about.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/