'Stop everything that I don't like!'

Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A friend of mine recently told me that he participated in protests during the Vietnam War. When the war ended, he and his peers were milling around their college campus asking each other, "What are we going to do now?" They eventually settled on an issue and found something else to protest.

Present-day Juneau is an amplified microcosm of that mindset. Protests, complaints, lawsuits, grievances, demonstrations, boycotts, quarrels, arguments and objections have become common currency here. Much like my friend following the Vietnam War, we march from one issue to the next.

Why not simply give every resident a sign that says "Stop Everything That I Don't Like." One phrase covers it all. No need to print replacement signage for the next fractious issue. We could put them in our car windows, post them in our yards and carry them in a parade. Bumper stickers, anyone?

Please remember that dissent and debate are healthy components of our rights and privileges. There is tremendous value in expressing and hearing an alternative point of view, a different perspective or a compelling competing opinion. Unfortunately, in my judgment, our citizenry passed the healthy mark on the debate meter a long time ago.

We are suffering not from swine flu, but from an advanced case of Balkanization (A geopolitical term used to describe the process of fragmentation or division of a region into smaller regions that are often hostile or non-cooperative with each other). This is certainly a true statement with respect to Juneau (I almost called us a community, but nothing could be further from the truth). We are now a collection of silos dotting the landscape. "I support this but don't support that. How about you?"

A chasm has opened up into a great divide such that "you can't get there from here" is more reality than mere perception. Portions of Juneau are now impossible to bridge. Who can lead us out of this perplexing dilemma? Do we want to be led?

We closely monitor our leaders and assail them with caustic comments when they do not explicitly follow our marching orders regarding the divisive issue de jour. We expect them to be extensions of our issue checklist. Who wants to jump into that maelstrom?

Are our leaders empowered to wave a magic wand and cast a spell of mystical enchantment over the borough? Poof! Instant peace and harmony. All issues resolved? This is an unlikely scenario.

Is it inevitable that our capital city will always be characterized by contentious conflicts and discord? Only if we permit it. In which case, I protest!

Clay Cummins


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