Civility, please


J. Robert Gough is the Publisher/General Manager of Muddy River News

Upon my re-entry into local journalism, there have been two things I have been consistently hearing from readers, friends or just people I run into around town:

“The new site is so much better than the last one and so much better than…well, you know…” (Evolution)

“Man, you’re not as big of an asshole as I remember…” (Don’t worry, there’s time)

When I went off for my public service stint in 2015, it was for the right reasons: better pay and pension. But I also was working for the state just as Governor Bruce Rauner and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan locked horns for a two-year stalemate where the State of Illinois didn’t produce a state budget, but still kept doing business.

The rules of state government are there are no rules.

Democrats and Republicans were civil away from the Capitol though at watering holes such as J.P. Kelly’s, D.H. Brown’s or Boone’s Saloon. Governor Rauner liked to frequent Obed and Isaac’s, which makes their own excellent beer. If he ran into a state employee, he bought them a round.

This thing we call democracy requires a balance. It requires the ability to passionately fight for your cause, but you also have to respect the people who are on the other side. If you win, you don’t spike the football. If you lose, you don’t go to court 50 times to try to find someone to call you the winner.

As we begin a week of local school board meetings where people who are our neighbors and friends are going to be faced with many difficult decisions, let’s remember they are our friends and neighbors, regardless of the size of their house or bank account.

Those people sitting on those boards also have to remember they chose to be there and represent the very people who are pissed off at them. They also cannot engage in name-calling and belittling.

The board members also need to be forthright and consistent in their actions. Explain why they are taking the steps they are taking. If they choose to go along with the rules as they interpret them, that is their choice. If they fight those rules, they fight.

If you don’t like how they vote, there are always more elections. Of course, the people who disagree with an elected official actually have to follow through on that promise or it will simply ring hollow. There was similar chatter as we approached this past round of elections, yet those board members ran unopposed…again.

There is a cottage industry in division…vaccinated vs. unvaccinated…people who are just looking to blame. They fan the flames. There are doctors who don’t believe the vaccine works and who oppose mask mandates. There are people who do their own research and talk to experts. Real experts, not Facebook doctors and lawyers.

But former President Trump was vaccinated. All of the Republican leaders in Congress were vaccinated. All of the hosts and people who run Fox News were vaccinated.

But if you don’t want to be vaccinated for your own personal reasons, that is your right. You’re not crazy and you’re not an idiot for not being skeptical. You’re making a choice. I don’t agree with your choice, but it is your choice and by making that choice you may not get to do certain things you want to do.

That doesn’t mean people who are requiring a vaccine for you to be able to do certain things are akin to Nazis running concentration camps. For the love of God, let’s stop the ridiculous over-the-top analogies.

Our hospitals are filling up again. The COVID numbers are rising again. These numbers are not made up.

But when our state’s largest city hosts Lollapalooza and less than a week later, the governor decides school kids all need to wear masks again, that doesn’t ring true. Although the governor did end up skipping the event, Chicago’s mayor was there celebrating…maskless.

I am vaccinated as is my entire family. I don’t want to wear a mask, but if I am somewhere and the host or property owner asks me to wear one, I will oblige.

Because I’m not as big of an asshole as I used to be.

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