Letter to the editor: Let’s show some mutual respect with comments

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Editor:

Can we have some courtesy and restraint on the My Edmonds News comment board. Please?

Sometimes we all see ideas with which we disagree. There are two options: respond to the idea, perhaps with a counter suggestion; or put the offending party on “Ignore.” Some will say that the latter is strangling the free exchange of ideas, but if all you can do when someone posts a thought you don’t like is to degrade the person, then clearly ideas are not being exchanged.  Do us all a favor and hit “Ignore.” We don’t need your squabbling — it gets us nowhere, it distracts from the matter at hand, and it bogs down any progress toward solutions.

The recent exchange over the housing plan is a very good case in point: Some posters addressed the ideas or the process, or offered some insights and ideas, or provided information. Some used irony vis-à-vis Edmonds and the process, and that’s okay too. irony is a legitimate way of expressing one’s reaction.

But then the “conversation” descended into squabbling. “Lots of virtue signaling going on here” is like calling the other person’s information “fake news.” It poisons the wells, it hurts, and it is meaningless: anything you say can be called “fake news” or “virtue signaling” if I don’t like it — but it’s not an argument — it’s an assertion. Do you mention driving a hybrid? Virtue signaling.  Did I mention the work my church does for the homeless? Virtue signaling. Let’s agree not to use this vacuous and demeaning phrase. It has no place in rational discussion.

The “conversation” got worse, with “advice” about how Mr. Wright should use his house — which is none of anyone’s business — and accusations of being “bitter and sanctimonious. I wonder why?” — which is judgmental and patronizing, far more apt to hurt than to enlighten.

Edmonds is a small community. It is growing fast, and many of us are concerned by the speed and direction of development. But we are a community, and that means we either commit to working together, to mutual respect, to restraint — or we devolve into just one more squabbling playground of children more intent on scoring points on each other than on finding solutions. Such self-discipline can be hard work, but the opposite leads nowhere but down.

The Edmonds I grew up in has always had problems and issues.  But there are more of us now, things are changing, and they are changing fast. With bickering and strife in the cockpit, with feelings hurt and accusations flying, a safe landing is endangered. And all of us are in the airplane.

Let’s calm down and exercise self-discipline, courtesy, and restraint. And if you don’t like what I’m saying, hit the “Ignore” button. It will save us both a lot of stress.

Nathaniel Brown

17 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Let’s show some mutual respect with comments”

  1. I started attending an event called The 3 Practices… it’s premise is to essentially learn how to stay in the room with difference…and still walk away as Friends. One has two minutes to make their argument, uninterrupted, then those who choose to respect have 20 seconds to ask a question…but the question has to be framed as “I’d be curious to know…”. Perception and upbringing sure influences belief systems. Perhaps we could try this method here…”I’m curious to know…” Or “walk me through…”. I hope, as a community, our goal is to pursue a strong and prosperous city together. After all, we are better together.

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    1. Sounds like a great class/event Mike! I know I could use practice – I’m guessing many of us could. It’s hard to stay focused on what is being said (especially on topics that are triggering) versus your mind moving ahead to an argument/reason against what is being said.

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      1. Sometimes what happens in civic life is we have no way of easily knowing what decision are going to be made and when will they be discussed. One way to learn of the timing of council decision is to look at the councils extended agenda. Here is the link to the latest extended agenda:
        http://weblink.edmondswa.gov/WebLink/0/edoc/790969/Extended%20Agenda%2011.16.18.pdf

        In two just over a week council will be discussion the tree ordinances. You can find the report they will discuss here:
        http://www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/Departments/Development_Services/Planning_Division/Plans/UFMP/EdmondsWA-UFMP-2018_11_12-pages-optimized.pdf

        When trees first came to the table a while back it was driven by the tree board and then referred to the planning board for public discussion. That first public discussion was fairly contentious and council later the public outcry. Buried in the last report on pg61 is where they is discussion about added fines and controls over private trees.
        Sometimes controversial topic are not well publicized and may slip by the public. Hopefully council will have the same good sense they are exhibiting on the Affordable Housing Strategies and let the public have added input now that the report seems to be in it’s final stages.

        Knowing when decision are going to be made can go along way to building public trust in their government.

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  2. Thanks, Nathaniel. I’ve been disheartened by the tone of comments regarding the housing strategy and I’m glad you spoke up.

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  3. Here’s Jordan Peterson’s take on virtue masks and virtue signaling. A Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His main areas of study are in abnormal, social, and personality psychology, with a particular interest in the psychology of religious and ideological belief, and the assessment and improvement of personality and performance.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KVd92RGx2Q

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  4. Very well stated, Nathaniel. Everyone take a step back and think before you speak. As my mother said many, many times, “Treat people how you would like to be treated”. It’s up to all of us to change what seems to be such a caustic, hurtful attitude. We can do it, try!

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  5. Thanks Nathaniel. Well said! I have pretty much quit reading people’s comments for the very reason you said. Instead of sharing ideas / thoughts on a subject it frequently deteriorates into name calling and rude demeaning comments. So sad to see our society going this direction!

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  6. Great Points. Sometimes folks get all worked up because they feel they have been left out of the process. Affordable Housing was an example. Comments when the bomb is about to burst are sometimes tainted by fear and the feel of no control. For AH we could and still can try to discuss solutions for individual strategies and try to attack the problem and not each other.

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  7. Thank you Nathaniel for your welcome voice of reason. Trolls posing as provocateurs do not respectful discourse make.

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  8. As my comments were referred to in the original letter, after a great deal of thought, I stand behind my comments 100%.

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  9. I couldn’t disagree with this op-ed more. MEN is full of great comments. Ignore people if you are triggered by them. Or, actually talk to people who are different.

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  10. I support others who provoke me to think and learn. Labeling someone as a “Troll” can be a method of dehumanizing voices.

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