Feel free to disagree, but keep the name-calling to yourself

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
July 11, 2017 - 5:00am

KAMLOOPS — One of the expected consequences of writing a political opinion piece is the inevitable name calling. Matter of fact, if I don’t get a comment or two or an email calling me an idiot or a moron, I begin to worry about having written a weak column.

It comes with the territory and is both expected and welcomed... well, at least most of the time. What I mean by welcomed is it serves to demonstrate and reaffirm the importance of opinions and dialogue.

In some cases, social media’s anonymity factor brings out the worst in people. However, for the most part, readers here seem more intent on joining in or adding to the discussion. For a minority, discussion or adding to the conversation is the furthest thing from their minds and a few choice words in the comments section seem to be enough to satisfy the freedom of expression urge.

It comes with the territory and whether you are for or against what I have written, at least you’ve read it, or enough of it, to form your own opinion. And engagement is really what a column should be about.

I have noticed a growing trend though and quite honestly, I’m concerned that it may reflect a new attitude or simply the result of increasing polarization.

One example of self-centred, it’s all about me commentary, came as a result of a March 11 article in the Vancouver Sun concerning Andrew Weaver’s concerns on BC Ferries and in particular, Gulf Island fares.

A breathless post appeared on Facebook, damning Weaver for even considering the idea of offering a Gulf Island resident commuter type fare. It was, according to those who had been posting this, a careless, socialist plot that would unfairly subsidize those who had chosen to live on the Gulf Islands.

The post was immediately picked up by equally breathless and agitated commenters who wondered aloud why we who live in the Interior should help pay for this with our hard earned tax dollars. They were strident, self-righteous and angry voices that felt used and abused by the socialist hordes.  

A mob mentality was taking over. Cries rang out saying we shouldn’t have to pay for them. It’s pure greed they claimed and it’s being done on our backs they shouted. And all were certain it was a done deal with financial ruin and favouritism wiping out the fiscal security of the entire province. Wiping out that is until a small, single voice pointed out the obvious by asking:

“Did we not choose to live in the Interior and are there not costs as a consequence of that choice such as snowplowing in the winter and general road maintenance? Costs Gulf Island residents shouldn’t have to pay since they don’t have the kind of long, hard winters we do.”

And the post went silent in embarrassment. In the anti-Weaver, anti-NDP, anti-socialism, it’s all about me political gain moment, people had forgotten that we are a province. A collection of individual communities but nonetheless, a province and we share responsibility and costs for making our province work.

That is how things work when anger and ignorance is replaced with knowledge and concern for your fellow citizens. It is okay to have differing opinions and political philosophies but where is all this anger coming from? What has happened to discourse?

I write to encourage a conversation, not to have everyone agree with me. That is the purpose of a political column and of course it is slanted and that is intentional too.  

I love it when you, the reader, respond with an articulate argument that points to the flaws you see in my thinking. Calling me or other commenters names serves absolutely no purpose. So why not join a conversation and be remembered as a contributor as opposed to someone no one will remember?

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