Local government: Losing local newspapers means local governments aren’t nearly as accountable as they used to be. I know local municipalities that don’t post council agendas or minutes on their website and provide incomplete recaps or flat out conceal what happens at meetings. That has the effect of hiding (even if it’s innocent) official actions from citizens and pretending issues aren’t as bad as they seem. We can’t have that.
The Egotistical Authoritarian: We all know politicians of both parties think election first and constituents second. But these people are worse. They are elected officials who push positions that advance their personal interests even when the populace at large disagrees. Since they only listen to their base they ignore the greater good, which means they ignore most of us. This is why they become …
Dodgers: Not the baseball team, but people who duck and dodge difficult questions and refuse to justify the positions they take. Appearing before friendly crowds and issuing press releases does not pass as accountability. I can’t tell you the number of people from both parties who have refused to return calls or emails because I’m assuming, they don’t like to be challenged. We are not (not yet, anyway) an authoritarian society, and these elected officials are acting like autocrats. It’s so much easier to get on Facebook and listen to your fans than defend, in some cases, an indefensible position.
Silos. Our siloed existence means we are a step below the egotistical authoritarian. We tend to only socialize and listen to people who think, look and act like us. That sets up silos in which group A is right and righteous and groups B through Z are dumb and dumber. Social media ensures we’ll never solve that problem, but we need to take baby steps on a path of finding a solution.
Our communities: We are, by in large, decent, caring, loving people. Through the constant drumbeat of bad, I try to remember there is so much more that is good. Please help me remember that as I try to bring you those stories.
Community conversations: I’m trying to figure out a way to foster community conversations on difficult issues people are talking about, especially with people who don’t agree with me. What is freedom? Why do we have such a difficult time with race? I tried this one time on social media but shut it down because a few hijacked the conversation to advance their position. I think I’ve learned from that.
You: I want to hear from you — more. I do get a steady stream of emails from people who think I’m observant and others who wish I’d never type another word. I respond to them all because I want to hear different perspectives. I also want to hear what’s important to you and your community.
The news will often dictate what I write about, but I find all of these themes important. This isn’t an exhaustive list but a good start. These columns will be so much better with input from you.
Ray Marcano is a longtime journalist whose columns appear every Sunday on these pages. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.