Demonizing diminishes us

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2001

The vitriolic and personal attacks upon Dale Anderson for his "My Turn" column questioning the city's purchase of a large parcel of land for the library is disturbing. Mr. Anderson questioned the actions of public officials and how they spent a substantial portion of the public's money. He only suggested that a certain course of action was bad policy. As a matter of objective fact, his column cannot be read as a personal attack on anyone.

Mr. Anderson's attackers, and some opponents of development, choose to engage in the politics of personal destruction. Their position "we are right because Dale is a bad person" insults us as a community. It presumes that we will decide an important public policy issue based upon personal insults, rather than on substance.

In a small town, words like "divisive" and "personal attack" are fighting words. They are meant to destroy the credibility of an opponent, and to hurt his standing in the community. More tellingly, they reveal the malicious character of the accuser, and also reveal that they are incapable of defending their ideas substantively.

Even more pernicious, they assault democracy. By demonizing people who disagree with them, Mr. Anderson's accusers are attempting to put certain issues beyond debate. By discrediting those ones who speak, they hope to intimidate the rest of us into silence. To people committed to democratic principles, to seek victory on any issue by squelching free and open debate is sacrilege.

As our city faces the challenge of a legislative move, we need more than ever to show unity not the false unity where only one point of view is permitted, but the true unity of a community committed to the higher ideals of free and open debate among neighbors.

The issue involved in this debate is much bigger than what we do with a piece of dirt. It is who we are as a community. If we are a community that seeks to destroy people who disagree with us, how will we demonstrate to the rest of the Alaska that we are worthy of being the capital city?

Jeffery D. Troutt


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