Thank you, Tran. First thing I've read in a long time I'm willing to share on my Facebook News Feed. Well done!
OPINION: Much Ado About Non-Threats in Saline
At Tuesday's Saline Board of Education meeting, Board President Jennifer Steben, in a prelude to a long and ultra-repetitive round of public comment, said something that made my good ear twitch.
It started normally enough - with Steben telling us the board members serve because they love the students - "so let's be kind to each other."
But before she opened the gabbling, she dropped this:
"We see what's happening in our district and other districts, with threats of violence, with aggressive behavior towards superintendents, teachers, staff and trustees," Steben said.
Our district? Threats?
Only two days earlier, someone implored me to remove a post in Saline Posts, the sometimes quarrelsome Facebook group I help mismanage. The post was about a proposed anti-mask protest in the school and the warning said this post could instigate violence against school officials.
By golly, I didn't recall witnessing anything that might stoke violence. So, I went back and looked. By this point, the allegedly threatening post had been edited several times, and I wasn't about to read all of its iterations. The post, which was made by a man who has been nothing but exceptionally polite in every public comment I've ever heard him make, was removed anyway. Disaster was averted.
But here we were again. just a few days later, with someone sounding alarms about threats of violence. In our community. Against our school officials.
When the public portion of the meeting was over I asked Superintendent Steve Laatsch and President Steben if there were any threats made in our district. Steben couldn't go into it - but she did say a "concerning" communication was forwarded to the police chief.
Was our peaceful community really just a powderkeg set to blow? I needed to know. I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Chief Hart and the Saline Police Department and they complied quickly.
I'm not going to publish the details - other than to say that someone in another Facebook group suggested hiring private detectives to follow board members and administrators to catch them not wearing masks for a "rules for thee, not for me" scandal. That's the perceived threat relayed to the police chief, even though, according to the document, the district's human resources assistant superintendent Curt Ellis said it wasn't actionable before the report was forwarded to the police. The police chief ultimately agreed.
There was no threat of violence against school officials in Saline. Just like there was no threat a few days earlier on Facebook.
So why was this becoming a theme in Saline?
Even locally, partisan groups of people have their own information networks. That's becoming increasingly obvious, whether it's evident because of repeated false narratives about threats, or copied and pasted public comments repeated over and over by several people, stretching public meetings well beyond their useful term,
It's always the "other people" who issue the threats. It's the "opposition" that's dangerous, despicable and deplorable.
Since 20t6, we've been faced off, blasting each other with a never-ending firehose stream of destructive misinformation and maliciousness- all the while pretending we're righteous and superior.
At the community's recent Sept. 11 ceremony, there were calls for the kind of unity we felt on Sept. 12, 2001. That can't happen until we stop pretending our "opposition" is the "American Al-Qaeda." Trust me. I have friends in both camps. This charge now goes both ways.
Stop the social media bullyragging. Quit treating your political party platform like God's commandments. Seek out people in the other camp and talk to them about football, hockey, the weather, burgers, beer, movies, cars, Saline Athletics, books, cryptocurrency, fashion - whatever floats your boat.
Before DEI became a mind-numbing corporate consultant industry, a virtue-signaling badge or a standard used to decide who the mob tars and feathers, its lessons were valuable to all of us.
We were better with a diversity of people and opinions. We were enriched when we were inclusive (and respectful) of different cultures and ideas.
We should love, not fear each other.
Especially when there's nothing to fear.