JOHN OXFORD: Tupeloans need to take a breath and let citywide discussions procede

By John Oxford

The common good vs. individual freedoms – it’s an age-old battle that has overtaken many conversations about the future of Tupelo during the past few weeks. Better roads, revitalized neighborhoods, stronger schools, affordable means to college, lower tax rates and a better standard of living are things we all strive for but how we get there is a huge matter of opinion.
I myself have some strong opinions on how we should go about making our All America City the very best it can be. However it’s time we all took a deep breath and let the democratic process, Community Development Foundation studies, citizen meetings and City Council deliberations take place in a cordial manner. That after all is the Tupelo Spirit – finding solutions and coming together even as some, including myself at times, may disagree.
These past few weeks the only thing faster than many of the new ideas being put forth were the knee-jerk reactions to them, especially by anonymous “posters” on the Daily Journal’s website.
Do not take this the wrong way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing and criticizing the way our government, leaders and even the Daily Journal goes about their business. Heck, our country was founded because we disagreed with our government, and debate is part of the very essence of a healthy democracy.
But to launch anonymous personal attacks at those who choose public service, whether you agree with their ideas or not, is cowardly and shameful. It does nothing for the debate and actually creates an environment where more and more good people choose not to enter public service.
It frightens me to think what someone who might be thinking of moving to Tupelo – something we are trying to get more middle class folks to do, by the way – would think about our fair city if they are reading NEMS360.com, seeing the venom that spews from the keyboards of the nameless.
To have a serious debate about some very serious issues, we need to stop the postings, anonymous letters and whisper campaigns of personal destruction and start engaging in some real dialogue. And don’t give me that argument that if names were posted to these online verbal volleys, there might be some kind of retribution. By what I’ve seen some people write, retribution should not only be expected but is deserved.
Now I know this may not change anything, after all, I’ve never posted in my name or anonymously. We all should try and get details before making judgment calls on any issues and maybe a few folks who read this will stop and think before popping off the second they read something about which they are disagreeable.
During the last campaign cycle for Tupelo City Council, one of the major complaints heard by the candidates was the tone and civility of the way our council conducted itself. I’m afraid our citizens, at a time when we need all ideas, thoughts, hearts and minds to be heard, may be doing no better if not worse.
In thinking of the past few weeks, maybe American author and publisher Elbert Hubbard said it best, “If you can’t answer a man’s arguments, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names.” Let’s not make the decisions about the future of our city be about vile names and personalities but about well-founded arguments that lead to solutions.
So let’s stop all the personal attacks and name-calling and raise the debate. Let’s focus on issues and not personalities. If you have an idea, post it on Facebook, call your council member, write a letter to the paper, or shout it from the top of a mountain. Do it with passion and thought. Challenge ideas and our leadership. Get involved in your community in a positive way because it will take all of us, as individuals and as a community, to craft a better path to the future for Tupelo.
John Oxford is a community columnist from Tupelo who writes every other month. Contact him at JOxford@renasant.com.