When looking back at 2017, what challenges do you feel will be brewing in 2018? One issue I see is the evermore difficult matter of non-confrontational conversation. How do we bring up concerns with neighbors who may not share similar sentiments?
I sometimes feel there are efforts from small-but-noisy forces designed to dismantle and divide people based on a mere handful of personal matters. These efforts lead to stuck-in-the-mud dialogue which is unpleasant and goes nowhere. The quagmire of online chat boards reflects how toxic and stagnant a conversation can get if certain topics are broached. I do not want to see this happen to our local newspapers and face to face conversations.
I tell myself that the online community is different than the communities of Fillmore County. I want to believe we are capable of being more harmonious regardless of what small groups of noisemakers do to deter the peace. I want others to recognize we share more in common with one another, commonalities that form unbreakable bonds, no matter what untouchable topics come up.
We do share goals. I’d wager most folks in Fillmore County want to see our children or grandchildren have a better life than we had. The challenge in that may be determining how to improve life and what “better” looks like, but the endgame is the same.
There are shared sentiments regarding healthcare as well. I imagine most residents of Fillmore County would like to see themselves and their neighbors in good health, and when they aren’t in good health we want them taken care of in a professional and effective way.
Another challenge is security. Residents of Fillmore County want to ensure our Constitutional rights are protected. We may be concerned of a large Big Brother government, but some also recognize we may reach that level of surveillance from data-collecting corporations, and feel we should not have to sacrifice our rights of privacy for personal security from mega-corporations. The leak at Equifax comes to mind. Hackers acquired 143 million American’s Social Security numbers and other personal information in July of 2017, but the American people were not given that knowledge until the first week of September. Why? Yahoo’s email address scandal was similar.
Yet, another challenge that comes to mind, because it was brought up recently in the Fillmore County Journal via Buckbee and Weist, is secularism. Statistically speaking, most Fillmore County residents identify as Mainland Protestants (52.8% from the last census data) and about 95% consider themselves Christian.
My two cents on this…. So long as you want to keep the government out of religion and vice versa, you’re a secularist. You may be a Christian secularist, a Muslim secularist, an <insert religious identity here> secularist, or a non-religious secularist. In fact, most of us are secularists, which is why we support and uphold the 1st Amendment. The United States was founded on secularism, so we can practice our own religion. That said, some of the national values are perceived to be Judeo-Christian in origin.
This presents challenges when some wish to see their religious views infused into politics (inevitably into the homes of others). Yet, some see the threat this poses, especially if they are not members of that specific faith, or if they are secularists. I find theocratic pressures troubling because the rules used to bring one theocracy into power may be used to bring in another. Consider unintended consequences.
Conversations about opposing viewpoints are a challenge I see that need to be addressed at the community level. We can look beyond personal differences to recognize and emphasize our shared concerns. We can find effective solutions as a community of engaged citizens looking forward rather than over our shoulders at condemning noisemakers. And we can be engaged citizens by being respectful and participate in public discourse.
We have opportunities every day to speak with one another and provide insight of our own thoughts and ideas. Locals newspapers provide space for productive and meaningful conversation. Anyone can try to devolve dialogue to an unrecognizable mess and meaninglessness. It takes mutual respect to create a conversation where all sides benefit from the discourse, even if not everyone agrees with one another.