People often wonder why intelligent, compassionate and principled members of our community are so hesitant to step up and seek public office.
Yet, year after year, we see examples of how the personal and family lives of individuals who simply want to serve are placed under microscopic critical review by people who hold another political perspective or simply don’t personally like the person running.
For example, when it comes time for state legislative races, each political party and their supportive PACs churn out a mountain of templated negative ads in the form of mailers, online and television ads, texts, phone calls and even billboards.
These are used in each race statewide -- the only changes are the names and faces of the candidate who is in the crosshairs of the hit job. It doesn’t matter who is running -- they will be attacked -- sometimes viciously, with their doctored photo juxtaposed next to burning cities, foreign dictators, guns, stacks of unpaid bills and caricatures of criminals.
Sadly, if you decide to run for the state legislature or even the school board, you must anticipate that every aspect of your personal life, and that of your family and minor children, will be scrutinized by the local media, deposited in the opposing political party’s “dirty tricks file," and sullied on various social media community pages without moderation.
Is this really what we have become? Is this truly how we want to treat those who genuinely want to make a difference?
Political discourse is one thing. But when it comes at the expense of common decency and respect for those with whom you disagree, it crosses a line. You can strongly disagree with someone without wishing their life and family to be destroyed, or, in some cases, physically harmed.
Human beings make mistakes. They do and say things they later wish they could take back. I have, and I would wager that everyone reading this letter has at some point in their lives.
The important thing, of course, is that we learn from these mistakes and not repeat them. It is easy for those who sit on the throne of judgment as they privately (and sometimes quite publicly as members of the media) spread “news” in the form of slanderous comments, rumors, photos and salacious details intended to attack, embarrass or discredit individuals.
Usually these targets are public officials or candidates, but they are often those who simply want to get involved and make their community a better place by speaking out on issues.
If the rationale for these tactics is that people seeking office must be held to a higher standard, my question back to you is this: “Who among us is without sin?” Is there literally anyone out there who has done something or had an event in their life they would not want published on the front page of the paper or mercilessly picked apart on social media?
Hastings often likes to present itself as different, as exceptional, as a tight-knit community that is unlike others that surround us. I am hopeful this is the year that we can apply this sense of uniqueness to our political campaigns and set an example for others to follow.
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