as published in the Blytheville Courier News on Thursday, December 10, 2015
By TOM HENRY
The late New York Governor and democratic presidential candidate Mario Cuomo once said, “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.” Perhaps never has a quote been so truthful and accurate.
We all know how ear-tickling poetry can be. It not only can make romantic girls swoon, but it can make gullible voters faint, blush and do things they normally wouldn’t do. It is language that moves the soul, stirs the heart and challenges the mind. It is always high and lofty…and impractical for everyday living.
Prose, on the other hand is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the ordinary language people use” or “a dull or ordinary style, quality, or condition.” It’s the voice of the common people. It’s telling it raw, or “straight up.” It is not art, it’s essence.
Most people say they love politicians that can identify with the “common man” or that is “one of us.” Past election results show differently, however. People vote for the slick poet, not the fat, bald, ugly, toothless guy you drink a beer with.
The problem is that our elected officials, while not to absolve them carte blanche, are primarily bi vocational and by definition . . . one of us. They are raw and live lives of prose not poetry. That became exceedingly apparent Monday evening at the Blytheville City Council meeting where they discussed Parks and Recreation, Thunder Bayou and the 2016 budget.
It was something akin to a verbal group bar-fight or an aggressive game of trash-talking smash-mouth basketball on the neighborhood court. Fortunately, however there were no broken bottles to be found!
A quote by the fictional Godfather Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) provides us with some insight on what went wrong.
“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.” — Michael Corleone
The representative democratic form of government, especially with a hybrid town hall format thrown in, is at times extremely ugly, loud and emotional. It’s also always confrontational and often frustrating. That is all perfectly fine. The problem, however, is when people forget that it’s just business and begin taking things too personal.
I have no problems with our city leaders disagreeing with each other, department heads/subheads and/or the public. I also have no problem with them voicing their strong opinions and suggestions. It is perfectly fine for us to disagree. But to the degree to which our city leaders took things personal and starting slinging accusations and personal attacks, shame on you! You know better! If you are not disciplined enough to control your emotions and words, and if your skin is so thin that you can’t take criticism, then maybe you are in the wrong line of work.
Unfortunately, from what I can see, there are at least two overarching factions in city government at this time. Unfortunately, what makes the debates between the two factions volatile is that neither faction trusts the motivation behind the other. They do not stay on task with the business by debating the merits of the issues; they devolve into the mud hole and start slinging mud at each other, questioning motivations, making accusations of trickery and simply get their little feelings hurt. And the people cheer!
The end result is, more animosity, less trust and nothing but words and words and words. There is no need to grandstand. There is no reason to get personal in any way. There is no need to like each other for that matter. There is a need to take care of the people’s business.
I hope and pray that those from all sides during the remainder of the budgeting process take a little time and consider what is best for the entire city, and not simply the personal insult of not getting their own person’s way. As drastic as the changes are that we MUST make, there will be pains and regret. We will see cuts that hurt for a while, but they MUST come. It’s not personal, it’s just business.