Appreciating Choices that Matter

For more of my commentary on life in Richmond, Indiana check out RichmondMatters.com.
(Please note, because of the time that has passed since I wrote this article, it may no longer reflect my current views or the most accurate and complete information available on this subject.)

The editorial cartoon in today's Palladium-Item depicts a lone protester standing in front of an imagined future strip mall in Richmond, with an onlooker suggesting that the protester get on with his life. It's a poignant visualization of one of the destructive attitudes that plagues this town and many others like it: "what's done is done, no use in whining about it, move on and make the best you can." At first glance this might seem to be an admirable approach to use with the difficult issues we all encounter in life, but some Richmond residents and decision makers often apply it pre-emptively to matters where there are still complex choices to make, nuanced options to ponder, and opportunities to seek alternatives for the betterment of our community. The logic is circular: because something might be so, it must be so.

The cartoonist gets a laugh so long as we're willing to accept that this version of the future is the likely one, but it implies that we should not take our decision making process seriously because a particular outcome might prevail, and it suggests that those who question a prevailing opinion are wasting their time from the start. It's the same attitude that allowed the editorial board to label the petition I started as an "affront to civic fair play" - they feel compelled to condemn any action which questions the desirability of a probable outcome, for fear of engaging in real public debate, exploring the nuances of an issue, and understanding multiple points of view instead of just the one that is most convenient or loudly presented. I'm not sure if this is the result of narrow-mindedness, arrogance, fear, or something else entirely.

Whatever the root, it is painful to see this attitude at work in a community with so many great choices in front of us (and one in which I am so personally invested), but it's hilarious to see the Palladium-Item shoot themselves in the foot with such a blatant contradiction of their stated code of ethics: "we will provide a public forum for diverse people and views...we will reflect and encourage understanding of the diverse segments of our community...we will seek to promote understanding of complex issues." Right - except when there's advertising revenue or circulation numbers at stake? The paper's readership - and Richmond as a whole - deserves a more intentional and respectful approach to addressing the issues before our community.

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