By Dennis Minich
In 2005 there was a movie titled “Fever Pitch.” It was about a guy played by Jimmy Fallon, who was a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. Since childhood, he had been infatuated with the team. Virtually all of his clothes bear Red Sox logos. He plans his work and private life to always be ready to watch when the Red Sox play. One day he meets a girl, Drew Barrymore, and she appreciates his ability to be so passionate about something. But later she tires of his passion and he has to change to not drive her away.
A very interesting scene in the film comes when Fallon, still stinging from a Red Sox loss, goes to a restaurant. While there he sees some of the Red Sox players (including former Royal Johnny Damon) sitting around having dinner, laughing and enjoying themselves. The sting of losing seems lost on them. Fallon’s character realizes the game means much more to him than to the guys actually playing the game.
In many respects, politics is the same kind of situation.
While we see lots of posturing and posing for television cameras, behind the scenes life is much different. I have never attended a Washington, D.C., cocktail party, but I understand at most events you will find politicos of all political stripes attending, mingling and generally being friendly. There is even the famous story that Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, revered conservative, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, famed liberal, were the best of friends.
Politics is not a game and elections have consequences. But the entire system goes awry when people allow political differences to dictate how they interact with others. Imagine being so consumed by political thought that the very fact someone thinks differently than you disqualify them from being a friend, associate or whatever. Sometimes folks get so consumed in the system they lose their humanity.
Sadly, the political conversation in the U.S. has been on the downward turn for several years. Bipartisanship and even congenial deference to one’s opponents, at least publicly, has given way to hate and scorn.
We sit back and watch the national politicos play for the camera, but the strings of civility are strained as their rabid followers take up the battle cry. Nasty political discourse is nothing new, but sadly it seems to have reached a level where a whole new generation has no concept that politics is not everything in life.
The political discourse has changed at all levels and the ability to agree to disagree has given way to with me or against me mentality.
During the past three months, Harrisonville was engaged in a political debate that was both vehement and vicious.
The comments coming from supporters of both candidates were not only extreme, but caused hard feelings and resentment which deeply divided many in town. I heard more than one person ask when the political conversation in Harrisonville became so bitter. Some thought it was a rather new occurrence, but others pointed to events in the mid-1990s, others took it back to the 1970s and I heard stories even further back.
So, the answer is I don’t know if anyone really knows. But I might suggest a good time for it to end might be now.
During the candidate forum a week before the election, both Mayor Brian Hasek and his challenger, now Mayor-elect Judy Bowman, both said it was time after the election for all parties to start working together and moving the city forward.
I hope they both meant it. Whether she was your candidate or not, Bowman won the election and will be mayor for the next four years. I would like to hope that the supporters of both candidates will take their direction from the candidate forum and start working together.
Do I expect the next four years will be a trouble-free and worry-free time with unicorns and lollipops and dancing in the streets? No, I don’t. Do I hope there will be a civil discourse and honest efforts to get along? Yes, I do.
At this point the only thing we know is the city will have a new mayor and three new aldermen next week. All of the talk and discussion about what will happen is, at this point, merely hypothetical. Harrisonville has some great opportunities: the upcoming traveling Vietnam Wall, the Love the Square group, new businesses reportedly scouting the area and a passionate population.
Rather than fearing what may or may not happen, now would be a great time for everyone to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the good things our city has to offer.