BY BRANDI ENGEMAN
On March 2, 2022, The League of Women Voters Co-Presidents presented commentary on why we should be more civil and respectful to our elected leaders in Los Alamos County.
Shame on them. The League of Women Voters would not even exist if women did not have the right to vote. Did we earn that right through “polite” discourse. Did we earn that right by “avoiding rhetoric intended to humiliate or malign” those who were oppressing us? Did we do so by respecting people who were force feeding us in jails?
The women’s suffrage movement was often violent. It was not polite and those women did not mind their manners even though the politicians they were fighting against were sometimes their neighbors and spouses. They FOUGHT for their right to be heard. Where would they be if they had listened to the tone police of their days?
The commentary also implies that something malicious is happening at County Council or School Board meetings on the part of citizens in their public comment. That we are not arguing policy but getting personal. I disagree. What I hear is citizens calling individual elected officials out when their behaviors on council, and in person, do not match the policies they are enforcing or attempting to create. That is our right as citizens. I didn’t sign up to be in a cult when I filled out my voter registration and I will continue to call out the questionable behavior of ANY elected official. That is not bullying, that is democracy.
Civil discourse does not mean that an elected official is protected from citizen questions. When someone signs on to become elected to an office or position, they are agreeing that sometimes someone will disagree with them, call them out on mistruths or bad policy, and maybe they’ll say it in a way that makes that elected person uncomfortable. Unless harm has been threatened, this is part of the job.
I encourage the League to re-issue their statement in support and defense of the citizen’s right to speak up. They even close their commentary by saying that we should respect the rights of all people to hold different opinions and perspectives, but their commentary is full of tone policing and accusations of bullying because a few of us dare to question those we elected to public service. I’m disappointed that they felt this was appropriate in today’s political climate and await their follow up.