Respect and humility

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To the editor:

A recent writer to the Tryon Daily Bulletin lectured us on respect and humility.  She says that if someone questions the actions of our elected representatives, they are “tearing apart fellow Polk County citizens, especially our leaders.”

Once people are elected, the writer says, “we, as citizens, now have the responsibility and should have the respectability, to support them.  It does not matter if you agree with everything they decide; they are our leaders.”

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I agree that we should be respectful to others, including elected officials.  I respectfully disagree, however, that we have a responsibility always to support leaders, especially when we honestly believe they are taking our county, state, or country in the wrong direction.

It’s important to distinguish between lack of respect and honest, careful criticism.  Honest, careful criticism is the bedrock of democracy.  Speaking truth to power is a long, proud tradition in the United States of America.  It plays a crucial role in our government, even our local government.

Since the turnover of the board of commissioners (BOC), there has been an avalanche of radical changes in Polk County.  The majority of the BOC ran as “conservatives,” but there has been no sign of conservatism, fiscal or otherwise, since they took office.

A valued servant of Polk County’s citizens was inappropriately fired, with no vote in any public meeting, and with no good plan for replacing her. A $1,000,000-plus waterline was begun where it isn’t necessary. (But it will help an important political supporter of the majority who was instrumental in getting them elected.)

Important mountain protections were rescinded and the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) trashed after a decade of work. County health insurance was changed in an actuarially unsound way, substantially increasing the taxpayers’ cost and placing Polk County among providers of “Cadillac insurance plans” that must pay extra fees under Obamacare.  Many county employees fear for their jobs, having seen the majority run roughshod over other employees. These are not the actions of conservatives.  But they are examples of actions that do not deserve support.

I’m afraid I’m suspicious about why the writer’s concern about respect and support has come about just now.