Last night, our Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors passed an ill-conceived and poorly drafted resolution. (The link is to the draft, but it was passed as-is.) While much of the resolution is pablum, and many are of the opinion that the resolutions sweeping the rural areas of the Commonwealth of Virginia are meaningless, I disagree.
I attended the meeting. There were hundreds there, overwhelmingly white and male. Troublingly, after over two hours of public testimony, the resolution passed with barely 10 minutes of discussion among board members. The board each thanked those who attended and spoke on both sides, but there was no debate or thoughtful discussion. I’ll save my thoughts about the flaws of the resolution on another day, but my topic for this evening is how we have devolved into a society where there is no discussion, no consensus-building, no acknowledgement of the value of varying points of view.
Always the eternal optimist, I believe that had I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with members wearing their orange “Guns Save Lives,” I suspect that most would agree with background checks, licensing, and red flag legislation that receives increasing and overwhelming bipartisan support. But the us-vs-them mentality, combined (IMHO) with a macho, club-like approach, prevent that much needed discussion. Several of the people who spoke against the resolution suggested forming a diverse ad-hoc committee to look at the problem, review effects of the proposed resolution, and recommend a way forward. None of those speaking in favor even acknowledged the idea. Perhaps more frightening, neither did the members of the board.
Society, without compromise, without give-and-take, simply doesn’t work. I see that on all sides – from the Devin Nuneses to the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes. We’ve always had our outliers in government and public policy, but today they are a majority. That’s scary. Consensus and compromise are a thing of a by-gone era. There is no middle ground, no balance. No diverse ad-hoc committees to look as issues from all sides. It’s my way or the highway.
What happens to people who lose their balance? They fall. As a society, we’re falling, and I’m scared. Soon we won’t be able to get up.