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Ryan Slabaugh: Join a pledge to improve our community dialogue

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone these days and#8212; life is hard. The surprises we wake up to every day are overwhelming, shocking and oftentimes disappointing. But it is how we deal with those challenges that defines who we are as people, and who we are as a community.

A number of recent issues, including the recent school district and Railyard debates, have shown that our community has lost something significant. We are allowing the dogmatic 1 percent to push everyone else out of the conversation through fear, threat of litigation and public confrontations. But it is the middle who are affected the most, who really make our community strong, and we need them participating freely. As a coach would say to a losing team, we’re beating ourselves.

History proves we can work together (remember the New Year’s flood?) During the flood, towns and community members pitched in to solve a tremendous problem. Similarly with the district, I have heard from many students and teachers who have accepted the idea of change, and have found ways to make it a positive.



That took a lot of courage for those to reach that conclusion.

At the same time, I applaud the courage of those who are upholding their right by asking to remove school board members. Truly, that is no small step. But those same examples of courage are lost when the argument becomes personal, spiteful, and every argument begins on the sandy foundation of distrust.



It hurts to see that this community does not believe in itself enough to have the confidence to stand up, work together and arrive at a solution and#8212; and to ignore the 1 percent, whose and#8220;You’re with me or you’re against meand#8221; philosophies end the conversation before it can begin.

That said, it is the difference in opinion that gives us strength, but only through compromise, a word I have not heard volleyed about, or even considered, by many of our vocal gadflies. Compromise is the best example we can set as a community to ourselves, to the next generation, and to other communities split around similar issues.

The alternative to improving our community dialogue and#8212; decreasing the threats, both legal and personal and#8212; is staying where we are now, and that isn’t acceptable. I’ve spoken with principals who tell me their students were afraid to go to the parking lot after school to be picked up by their parents, because the last time they did, their parents were arguing in the parking lot about the recall. It’s moments like these that make me sick to my stomach, that makes me wonder if we are doomed forever to be a fragmented, overly-provincial community that can’t see past their own front yards.

I’ve only lived here a year, a fact many people use to discredit the newspaper and myself personally. I forgive them, as I do have a high learning curve, and have made a few mistakes. But it does not take a lot of local knowledge to distinguish a community that wants to work together from a divided community with a self-esteem issue.

As many of us hold onto the past, let’s not forget about learning from that same past to build a better future. And to me, I want us to be a lot better than we are showing today.

So, I request: Join me today in helping this community. Never stop the search for middle ground. And most importantly, assume your neighbor with a different point of view is just as caring, thoughtful and important as you are. Trust that we all have the same goal and#8212; to live in a vibrant, intellectual and fun area and#8212; and know that our visitors, relatives and second homeowners expect those same, exact qualities in us.

And please keep the insults and threats to yourself. Then, perhaps, the task of improving our community through a relentless search for compromise will not seem so impossible. Not to mention, it’s just the right thing to do.

Ryan Slabaugh is the executive editor of the Sierra Sun. E-mail him at rslabaugh@sierrasun.com, call him at (530) 550-2650, or comment on his blog at http://www.sierrasun.com/answercenter.


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