Our view: Civility needed now
Earlier this month the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution promoting civility and respect.
In touting the importance of tolerance and inclusivity, the resolution states that the board “will actively encourage and pursue mechanisms to improve understanding, dialogue and tolerance within our county and its communities.”
The Tribune fully endorses this move, while also expressing sadness that such a stance is needed … and it is needed.
In presenting the resolution, Supervisor Sue Novasel noted that the issue transcends politics — it’s not a matter of blue vs. red, or red vs. blue. Rather, the resolution speaks to the importance of respecting human rights and human decency. As Novasel put it, it’s about the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
The resolution notes that “there have been recent reports of increasing incidents of hate and intolerance directed toward people, businesses and children living in our communities who represent diverse cultures, ethnicities and religion.”
Some question this claim, citing the lack of formal reports. The South Lake Tahoe Police Department informed us that it does not have a record of such a complaint.
However, the lack of a police report does not mean these incidents are not occurring. As a spokesperson for the department went on to say, unless such abuse arises to an apparent crime, the incident is likely handled by dispatch and does not register on law enforcement’s radar.
The Tribune reported earlier this month that some members of the immigrant community here in South Lake Tahoe are feeling a growing hostility in the place they call home. This is not necessarily blanketed across our community — as the immigrants interviewed noted there has been support from institutions such as the school district, police department and college.
So why take this stance?
We are all human beings, and even if it were a handful of our neighbors being exposed to irrational hate and intolerance, that would be a handful too many. We are horrified by some of the stories that members of our immigrant community have shared — one such story was punctuated by tears emanating from having to relive racially-charged harassment. That particular story was shared by a woman who originally lived in Mexico and has lived here for more than 24 years.
Those of us who call Tahoe home come from varied backgrounds. Many people have left homes elsewhere in order to live in this awe-inspiring place, despite its challenges. We have our commonalities, such as love for the lake, and our differences.
Being different is not an invitation for words and actions by people who are at best misinformed and at worst intolerant.
Similarly, being in this country illegally does not validate racism. And while we’re on the subject, illegal is not a noun. People are not illegal, even if their actions are.
In affirming the need for greater civility, it’s important to explain what this is not.
This is not a position on current and/or proposed immigration policies.
This is not about Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals.
This is not a call to hamper or restrict free speech for the sake of political correctness, although some will certainly call it such.
As Merriam and Webster defines it, political correctness is: “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”
The key word in that definition is “offend.” Based on the experiences of some in our community, the words and actions directed at them do not merely stop at “offend.” Rather, they seek to strip fellow human beings — our neighbors — of their dignity.
Naturally, differing opinions can cause tension and in some cases offend. That is unavoidable and, we argue, critical.
Now more than ever, we all need to listen to those who have opinions and views that are different than our own. Diversity of thought, much like diversity in general, is a good thing, and we encourage everyone to interact with somebody outside our comfortable bubbles.
What is avoidable is disagreement and discourse that contains slurs and other words that aim to paint a person or group of people as lesser.
It’s easy to group people together for the sake of argument, but it’s important to remember that all of us, regardless of ethnicity, gender and other differences, all make up this community. And, as the county resolution states, “we are stronger as a community and a nation when we pursue equal rights and justice for all and act in ways that are tolerant, inclusive, and do not harm others.”
Let’s not allow differences, whether of opinion or other, to weaken us as a community.