As I write this, we’re a couple of days removed from the city’s election. The mayor is in a runoff with a council member, and two challengers unseated two incumbents.
Most of the campaign signs have been pulled from the ground and put in storage or thrown away. Thank goodness. This election cycle was draining, and I wasn’t even on the ballot.
With social media as a megaphone, specifically in this case Facebook and Next Door, a lot of people exercised their abilities to say whatever they wanted about any candidate, regardless of truth, and had virtually no repercussions.
I heard a minister say in a sermon a while back that we say things on social media that we would have never thought to say to someone’s face, and it’s true. The only problem is that now that keyboard cowardice really has started to bleed into the real world.
One Sunday a couple of months ago while I was out getting exercise, a neighbor stopped me to talk about an issue. The exchange started cordially, but before long, partly because we disagreed on the issue and partly because he didn’t understand what I was telling him, this neighbor looked at me and said, “I wonder what your mother would think of what you’re doing.” Just for context, he meant my mother who passed away in 1998. Yes. He brought my dead mother into the conversation.
What was the turning point when we decided it was OK to treat our friends and neighbors with such disrespect? You didn’t grow up that way. I didn’t grow up that way, so who did grow up that way and started turning polite society into impolite society?
Proverbs 4:24 (NIV) says, “Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” That didn’t happen in this election.
A couple of weeks ago, at a special-called meeting to give second reading to an ordinance moving the downtown development project forward (a project I campaigned on when I first ran for council), a former Mauldin resident who still lives nearby took the podium and said that I should be ashamed. I am ashamed, but not for the reason he wanted me to be.
I’m ashamed that the ability to disagree without being disagreeable seems to have been forgotten. I’m ashamed that issues and personalities have to be so intertwined we can’t judge either on their individual qualities. I’m ashamed that we can’t see different sides of an issue and still be friends. I’m ashamed that we can’t have the same goal (to make Mauldin better) and have conflicting philosophies of what that means or how to get there. I’m ashamed that if we aren’t in lockstep, I have to hate you, and you have to hate me. That’s not right, and I’ll do my part to make sure that’s not the kind of legacy or lesson we leave for those coming behind us. They deserve better. We deserve better.
Let’s make America neighborly again. We can start right here in Mauldin.
Taft Matney serves in Seat 1 on Mauldin city Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.♦