Civility necessary for community

Let’s agree to disagree.

That’s a statement that’s kind of been turned on its ear by the internet and social media. In an age where we can sit at a computer and make statements in an environment where we don’t see the impact of those comments on others, it’s all too easy to forget courtesies that used to be common.

There seems to be a lot of anger in our country, and Mustang’s no difference. There are – and always will be – those people who don’t like it when someone disagrees with their opinion, who can’t take what they perceive to be criticism, helpful or not. Whether it’s a public official who berates others who don’t share his or her views, someone on Facebook or another site that calls others names because they have different beliefs  or a person who ridicules anyone “different,” it all boils down to one thing – bullying. And it doesn’t matter if you physically shove someone or do it with words.column shots.qxd

We all know bullying is a problem in our schools. Look at the news stories, talk to experts who work with kids, and we all know this is a bad phenomenon. We’re lucky in Mustang – so far, no one has died or seriously injured themselves or someone else due to bullying. But it is a reality, and when local residents, adults, conduct themselves this way, how can we convince our children bullying is wrong?

Tuesday’s bond issue became a very heated topic. People both for and against the proposal were very passionate about their beliefs, and that’s great. Different viewpoints are a healthy thing – how else can we learn and grow if we all believe the same thing? There were a lot of debates about the issue and, let’s face it, at a point we have to agree to disagree with some people.

It’s those people who can’t accept that, who decide the answer is to question others’ integrity, call names and just keep on an on, that make discussions ugly. We are, first and foremost, a community. We are neighbors – our kids go to school together, we see each other at Town Center, we sit together at monthly chamber lunches, for some of us we attend each city council meeting. Why, then, can discussions not stay civil?

Last week a man named Glen Nichols died. Most people in Mustang probably don’t know Glen, but they should have. A former El Reno city councilman, Glen was the embodiment of a true community representative, a leader who made his city proud.

When Glen was on council, he asked a lot of questions – and I mean a lot. Glen didn’t just go along with the crowd; he did research, he talked to residents, he told me once it was his “homework.” There were things that frustrated him, issues he didn’t like but I never, in several years covering council, saw him mistreat someone else.

Glen was the kind of person I would like to be, someone who passionately believes in what is right and wrong but an individual that also knows we will never all agree. He was a great person to work with as a reporter – he always answered questions, always gave his time and dedication, and I was honored to become his friend. Glen and his wife Carol are two of the finest people I’ve ever known.

Mustang has its own share of great people – those who care deeply about others, who believe in our community and its potential. They are the norm and not the exception. But we all can do more, be better.

As a journalist, it’s my job to be impartial. I don’t express my political beliefs or weigh in on one side or the other of an issue. Sure, I have my thoughts, but I’d like to think I can separate those from my coverage because that’s what I am supposed to do. That doesn’t give me an excuse, however, when I witness bullying and harassment – and none of us should stand by and allow anyone to behave like that.

This is our community and we owe it to our neighbors, our friends and ourselves to make a stand about what is right, to call out those who are conducting themselves in that manner. We can agree to disagree, but hopefully we can all agree that we are all entitled to express our opinions without fear of personal attacks.