In the past few years America has seen an increase in politically motivated violence. A recent CNN article asserts that the warning signs for such fatal violence are usually on full display on social media, before the violence actually occurs. Certainly, that is easy enough to figure out.
A few days ago a friend forwarded a post from a Facebook group page (that is supposed to be a “family friendly site..[with] a civil tone”) to me that was posted by a local businesswoman. It said, “… a lot feels cumbersome in our beloved NK…especially sitting through Town Council meetings with a TC that deserves to get covered in stones…or better still hanged in the village center. Lord, give us back the independents, they didn’t have agendas up the whazoo!”
As a member of the North Kingstown Town Council, I can unequivocally state that this person said this despite never once trying to personally engage me with her concerns. She never tried to convince me of her points of view, listen to any of my points of view, or asked me why I voted on any matter. In short, she never tried to have a responsible, constructive, and respectable conversation. Accordingly, she cannot know what my (or any other member) of the town council’s purported “agenda” is. So why she would want to have us “hanged in the village center” is beyond me.
While this person’s comments are the exception in our town, their nature is alarming. Moreover, they are also Exhibit A as to why so few run for public office. If this person, or any person, has a concern about their government officials they should directly convey their concerns to their public officials and allow them an opportunity to respond. If they do not like what they have to say they may: a) try to convince the public official to change their mind; b) accept the response; or c) run for office themselves. But suggesting violence is way out of line.
I say to this person and all of those on social media platforms your voice in government is important. It is vital to a good democracy and government officials certainly want to hear from you. However, it is wasted when you are making derogatory, divisive, cynical, and inflammatory comments that are only intended to intimidate and/or disparage government officials. You lose credibility not only with your elected officials but also with the citizens of your town. Moreover, it is dangerous because it may incite others.
Therefore, I ask you to participate in government by making respectful, constructive comments directly to your government officials rather than disparaging and dangerous ones on social media. You might be pleasantly surprised by their responses. I can tell you we have no “agenda” other than to govern our community in the best interests of our citizens.
Gregory A. Mancini
President, North Kingstown Town Council