Being part of the solution
Today, it feels like we can’t go anywhere without hearing someone talk about politics. Movies and late-night TV shows have discovered that political humor draws viewers in droves. Boycotts against products and companies that support the “wrong” political party have become commonplace. Even sporting events, traditionally our escape from everyday life, have become a forum for political expression.
While I applaud our country’s increased engagement in our government’s affairs, unfortunately, the overall level of civility of this discourse seems to have plummeted to some of lowest levels we have ever seen. Social media and partisan “info-tainment” shows and websites have created an echo chamber effect, where not only are the opinions of the opposition considered invalid, but they are actually seen as dangerous and must be shut down. Suddenly, longtime friends and neighbors are looked at differently for disagreeing with our political views. Certainly our Nation has gone through times of strife where we’ve disagreed on important issues, but I do not believe that there has ever been a time when the distrust of our fellow Americans has been so prevalent, and frankly, so mean spirited.
But the problem goes deeper than that. Hyper-partisanship is not just about people being rude to the other side of the aisle. It stops important legislation dead in its tracks as each side looks to score a “win” in the political debate.
One area where this desire for political “wins” is the most evident is in our budgeting process. While budgeting has never been a non-partisan issue, the over-the-top rhetoric of the political class has gotten out of control. For instance, I’ve seen an increase in a line item that falls slightly below the requested increase labeled a draconian cut in services. This is just rhetoric. An increase is not a cut. In reality most people are ok with spending public money on government projects as long as they feel that the funds are being used wisely and efficiently. I believe we can produce a budget that provides for the most vulnerable in our midst who have nowhere else to turn, without abusing taxpayers by funding pet projects just to kick-start the next campaign.
When I was an alderman in Nashua, I made sure I was accessible to all of my constituents. People in Nashua knew me as the guy who could get potholes fixed outside of their homes or a new stop sign if needed. It didn’t matter if they voted for me or not, the role of a public servant is just that, to serve the public. True bi-partisanship, true integrity in public office means more than just saying, “I’m not that guy you hate,” but rather saying, “I’m the guy who is going to work for everyone!”
I’m not writing this column to place blame on the left or the right. Each side has played its part in bringing us to our current situation. However, just as each side is culpable, each and every one of us can help bring this heated political climate back from the brink. So the next time we find ourselves about to re-tweet a nasty story that we know is only half true, or put a “witty” political bumper sticker on our car that demonizes the other side, let’s stop and ask ourselves whether we’re part of the solution or part of the problem. We can choose to listen more and shout less and be part of the solution. Listening more and shouting less is the only path to healing.
David Schoneman is a former two-term Nashua Alderman and candidate for State Senate District 13. He can be reached at DavidSchoneman.com or on facebook: David Schoneman for NH State Senate.