I don’t usually write about my reporting side here. I’m going to make a small exception today.
If I can stay awake, that is.
As many of you know, I cover city politics. And this last Tuesday, city politics covered me like a semi covers a skunk. It was almost 1 in the morning before the final gavel came down, closing a night of often impassioned and sometimes angry debate.
The subject was fracking, of course. It so often seems to be these days. And I won’t be weighing in directly on the issue, just like I haven’t weighed in on airport runways, backyard chickens, or marijuana dispensaries. My job is still to cover the story, not to be the story.
But I do have something to say to the five dozen speakers who pummeled the air with their opinions and concerns. To all involved in extending the debate until deadlines were only a fond memory. To everyone who helped me wake up the next morning feeling like I’d gone 30 rounds with Joe Louis in his prime.
Memorial Day is almost upon us. Every year, we talk about honoring the soldiers who fought for the nation we live in and the rights we hold. The men and women who help keep this a free country.
But the finest military in the world can’t keep a nation free if it loses the habit.
I know. This is the sort of thing newspapers usually get excited about just after Election Day, either praising the public for a higher-than-expected turnout or excoriating it for a low attendance rate. But voting’s only one step in the democratic process. The easiest one, at that.
The hard part is to enter the brawl. To shape the issues that get voted on. To push the officials who cast the votes, maybe even to become them.
To be a voice instead of just a hole-puncher.
I didn’t agree with every speaker Tuesday night. To be honest, there were a few on all sides that had me biting my tongue hard enough to leave marks. Some went so far out on a limb that they were tap dancing with woodpeckers.
But I give them this, good and bad and ugly. None of them stayed home and stewed. None of them decided it was somebody else’s problem. All of them came and made their feelings known.
Sure, we can talk about civility or checking the facts or finding ways to come together. Those things are important, too, even crucial. But the first step, the vital step, is to break through apathy and get everyone in the same room and talking. You can’t have a good public debate if you have no public debaters.
And whatever the other faults of Tuesday may have been, that was not one of them.
So thank you, one more time. Thank you for insisting on being heard. Thank you for being a people, a public, a participant.
See you all next time.
Right after I get myself a nap.