General Stonewall Jackson said, “Never take counsel of your fears” (From, “On Strategy, A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War” by Colonel Harry G. Summers). We live in “the home of the brave and the land of the free” Yet, it seems to me, the instillation of fear is the aim of a lot of the rhetoric and becomes the root of many of our important decisions. When an important question is asked it seems natural and right that we first consider it from our own perspective. If increased taxation is requested our first reaction is almost universally “oh no, more of my money to the government!”. While understandable, this is a fear reaction and is often made without consideration of the fact that, like it or not, we are all members of a community and gain from the services our entire community provides.
Stonewall Jackson’s comment reminds us that fear is not a quality basis for decisions. As members of the community we all pitch in a bit of money understanding that as a group we can create services that we cannot afford by acting alone. I am suggesting that we remove the fear in our initial reaction and look at what the entire community might get out of a new idea or action. Does it result in better schools, better service to the elderly, cleaner parks and better public safety? If you find yourself answering yes to the service attached to revenue enhancement you are now thinking as a member of the community not a as a single citizen divorced from what government provides.
Fear wins elections. Fear will “get out the vote”. It generates public support. Fear also fractures a community. A winner takes all mentality prevails. I am of the opinion that a particular group might win an election or stop some ballot question but, in my mind they may have won a battle but they have lost the war. Fear does galvanize people but, guess what, it does not create solutions. This point is really important. To win does not create a solution, if in the winning, we have damaged the sense of community so necessary to move all of us forward. Fear makes it easier to knee-jerk a no on any issue. It is much more difficult to make that negative vote when we consider ourselves important members a greater community.
There will be a lot to consider in our next election. Initiatives 60, 61 and 101 will be made to sound great by their proponents. Yes, they will save you a few bucks. But they will guarantee lousy roads, schools funded at a level of 20 years ago and hamstring governments to fund core services such as water and wastewater treatment. Do we save ourselves some money or do we pay for what we are using? Are we citizens who vote for our short term personal benefit only, or do we see ourselves as part of a greater community?
November is only four months away and there will be a lot on the ballot that we will be asked to decide. I ask that each voter starts now to try to understand more than the emotional aspects of each issues. I ask that rather than operate from fear, we take time to see ourselves in the context of the community and work towards finding a different and less emotional perspective.
Finally, I would like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Richard Padoven. Like many in our town Mr. Padoven and I disagreed on a lot of issues. He, however, was always willing to share a joke with his criticism. Salida will miss him.
Mayor, City of Salida