There is a peculiar concept that has arisen recently in politics in general. It is the idea that we must have the vast politic body agreeing as one on any particular issue or project, and then we can proceed with it.
This seemingly harmless concept has been practiced recently and rather religiously in Newburyport.
Now in any other time whether it was the 17th, 18th, 19th or most of the 20th century; this idea would be exposed for what it was; politically, cowardly leaders who refuse to stake their efforts or reputation on a principled decision or project.
This ‘Let’s all be friends” comes from an intense idea of having people like you and it’s great when you want to be popular. It’s not so great when the tiniest minority can terrorize any effort or subject. All they have to do is scream at the top of their lungs and defeat any measure they don’t like…regardless of which side of the issue.
Can we spell, ‘p-o-l-i-t-i-c-a-l p-a-r-a-l-y-s-i-s’?
And yet, that has been the operating procedure for our City Council and for a host of mayors.
The right thing to do is to take a stand, bring out the points for taking that stand and then let the two-sides debate back and forth on substantive arguments (not screaming hysteria) and then let the legislature (our city council) or the voters decide. Winston Churchill who constantly suffered for taking a stand said,
A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.
I have repeatedly seen well-planned, well-reasoned and well-thought out projects defeated because of a tiny vocal minority. And worse, I have seen the proponents cower away and not engage in the public forum due to the desire of reaching consensus and being ‘liked’.
I assure you, where this is smoke, there is fire – if you make quite a stir, you will attract a crowd – a crowd of citizens and voters who are gazing like people on the benches watching a tennis match. An argument is thrown out and the audience wants to see if the argument will stick or be thrown back. Only then will they realize there is a good game worthy to be watched. No response from the opposing side? You bore the audience. Watch them empty the arena. No game today!
That is how democracy works. Who has the better argument and the better play? Only then can an ‘informed’ citizenry make decisions.
Let’s face it. Failure is an option. There are many communities who gleefully chose the path to destruction and are now basket cases – but what a tragedy and very sad if no one tried to put the brakes on their doomed decisions!
Newburyport is riding high now but history has shown that if the citizens start making wrong choices – it could be all over for us. It took brave leaders in our past who stood up, to create the City we have today and many suffered for it.
Who will take ‘consensus’, throw it in the trash, and take a stand?
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
– Winston Churchill