Getting our 'buts' in gear
Once again, Marion County seems divided over another huge plan — in this case, a second wind farm in the southeast part of the county.
As with most plans, many are loudly shouting “No!” while a few are perhaps less loudly shouting “Yes!”
It was the same when the area debated and ultimately did not approve a modern, environmentally protected landfill a decade and a half ago.
Or when it debated and eventually agreed to build a necessary new jail a few years back.
Or when it tried to cope with declining retail and industrial jobs by forging several now-failed economic development groups.
Shoot, it even goes back to when the federal government wanted to build a huge reservoir between Marion and Hillsboro.
The latest plan has its merits and its drawbacks. It could mean substantial revenue and taxes on an ongoing basis and could help provide alternative energy. It also might change the visual landscape and could pose logistical challenges for people living nearby.
It’s absolutely right that some shout “Yes!” while others shout “No!” to this and other projects like it. But what’s also needed is one additional word: “but.”
As in, “Yes, but we also need to worry about.… ”
Or, “No, but here’s what we could do instead.”
Anytime any of us feels the justifiable need to shout “Yes!” or “No!” we also need to challenge ourselves to include the even more important “but.”
And those of us who don’t shout anything but merely mutter “maybe” to most plans need to serve as facilitators in making sure we get our “buts” in a row.
Democracy doesn’t exist just so people can turns thumbs up or thumbs down as if they were a raging crowd at some ancient gladiatorial arena, deciding life or death for the gladiator.
Democracy exists so all sides can be heard and, importantly, can come together to arrive at a conclusion that isn’t life or death, that seeks to accommodate everyone, and that actually praises the gladiator for trying, whether we ultimately agree or disagree with his or her plan.
Just because Congress and the White House or the folks up in Topeka or even our neighbors in the county commission chamber don’t know how to behave as true patriots, who can be both progressive and conservative at the same time, doesn’t mean we all have to sink to their level.
Now isn’t the time for a push ahead at all costs or a moratorium that merely shoves an issue under a carpet. Now is the time not for argument but for conversation, discussion, and accommodation of legitimate concerns on both sides of this and every other issue.
We would never be so bold as to claim we understand every side of every issue, but the first step in resolving any problem is getting people not just to complain about it but to suggest ways to fix it — solutions that are more than just all or nothing.
It’s untidy and sometimes tedious to be wrapped up in interminable debate. Worse still is that such debates often obscure other issues of a similar nature — like the on-going expansion of fracking-like activities at Marion County wells. Many equally important issues end up getting no attention at all because our ears can hear only the shouts of “Yes!” and “No!” to a handful of topics.
It finally may be time for the vast majority of residents squarely in the “maybe” camp to come forward and teach the “Yes!” and “No!” crowds the true meaning of democracy, American style, even if these days it is practiced only by the private citizens of Marion County.
Who knows? We might even show the rest of the political world a thing or two if we can get our “buts” in gear.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified March 13, 2019