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  • Last modified 57 days ago (Oct. 6, 2022)

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Putting the ‘I’ back in ‘team’

Carve it in marble, cast it in bronze, tattoo it on your forearm. Every week should be like this one, with KU and K-State standing alone atop conference football standings and both in the Top 25.

Alas, fancy carriages in which both, especially KU, currently ride may turn into pumpkins before Halloween. Still, even a brief glimpse of success is eye-opening — especially when it comes at the expense of big-money programs seeking even bigger money by deserting the schools’ conference.

So far, most universities that have abandoned the Big XII for fame and fortune elsewhere have found fortune more attainable than fame.

Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado now wallow in mediocrity on the field while wallowing in money at the bank. Texas A&M has done a bit better. But are Oklahoma and Texas the next to trade on-the-field points for extra zeros on their balance sheets?

KU’s rehabilitation as a football school is among the most remarkable storylines of an overly dramatic college football season.

True, Jayhawk players are better, their offensive and defensive schemes are better suited to them, and after a decade of abandonment, luck finally has turned their way. But it’s more than just an expectation of victory that has propelled the Jayhawks to a conference-best 5-0 start.

KU had at least a few good players even when it was a bad team. What coach Lance Leipold has brought is a sense that everyone — not just a few stars — is an essential part of any winning team. It’s a lesson our communities would be wise to notice, as well.

Too often, community affairs are dominated by well-meaning citizens who, for some reason, seem to believe they should be left alone to determine the community’s fate.

True, they tend to be people who frequently volunteer and may view others as not pulling their weight. But a community cannot thrive any more than a football team can unless all its members — not just self-styled stars — are actively involved in every aspect of its game plan.

That means preserving taxpayers’ rights to vote on borrowing, which a City of Marion charter ordinance now being challenged by petition seeks to eliminate.

Saying, as a smattering of opponents of the petition have, that city council members are elected to govern and should be given complete latitude to do whatever they want is an attitude that’s less about American democracy and more about people believing themselves to be members of some sort of elite.

Leaders should not have to trick, drag, or manipulate others into doing what’s needed. They shouldn’t act as if others are too dumb to understand what they do. They should instead be persuasive enough to convince others of their desired action through openness and dialogue, often conspicuously absent from community discourse.

Rather than try to persuade voters about a need for borrowing, self-styled elites would rather take voters’ rights away and give absolute power to elected officials, letting citizens vote only every two or four years on whether officials abused that power.

Worse yet, anyone who dares question their stance is immediately accused of hating the community and dragging it into a pit of negativity.

Rather than accept that there can be legitimate differences of opinion, elites engage in gossip, insults, and downright falsehoods to characterize anyone who questions them as evil and negative forces. And they often come up with subtle ways in which to punish such people to the point that many simply stop offering ideas and questions that could make the community more vital and responsive.

Listening to all opinions — even those contrary to our own — is a fundamental tenant of American society. E Pluribus Unum isn’t just a phrase on currency. It acknowledges that we have diverse opinions and backgrounds yet seek to come together as one rather than abdicate our future to elites that would prefer to govern by fiat, without public involvement.

What too often results is a public that feels disconnected from government that is supposed to serve it but seems more concerned about the happiness of government employees than it does with well-being of those paying the bills.

Government is at its worst when elites believe only they have enough information to have valid ideas and make appropriate decisions. It’s government’s responsibility to make sure the public has the necessary information — good or bad — so every member of the community can contribute and make the community as vibrant as possible.

Newspapers attempt to facilitate that flow of information, whether elites cooperate or not. But we can’t do it alone. Both the elites and the broader public have to welcome openness and be willing to allow information to flow without labeling truth as negativity or regarding it as an irrelevancy they can do nothing about.

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing it. Condemning or ignoring recognition of problems also condemns and ignores the vast untapped potential for new ideas and new solutions to spring from what some might consider unlikely sources — the average citizens and taxpayers of our community.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Oct. 6, 2022

 

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