What a year and interesting last two weeks it has been locally. It mirrored the polarization taking place across America. Our local tipping point was started with what I’m calling “the cartoon.”
Whether you were offended or supported it, Mike Luckovich did his job by evoking emotional reaction. The results led to something important, meaningful local communication.
After seeing “the cartoon,” I was not compelled to write a letter to the editor. It was more Lewiston Tribune drivel. The urge came after reading Nathan Alford’s Aug. 28 apology. I read it several times to be objective and fair.
My point: The Tribune had a prime opportunity to show humility and apologize at the same time by putting Alford’s picture or the Tribune logo in the “Cheers and Jeers” column with a “Jeer.” I felt his apology fell flat and I wanted to understand.
I called Alford on a Tuesday. I started the conversation with a question: Why should a conservative reader continue subscribing to your paper when it is predominantly left?
That phone call allowed us to talk about an hour and I am grateful for Nathan making that much time. My intent was not to pile on, but to understand and provide perspective.
You see, the Tribune is part of my life. I remember picking up a bundle of papers at the Kendrick Garage on Sunday mornings, when it was my family’s turn to deliver them to our rural neighbors. As a little kid, I learned who my neighbors were and where they lived.
Regardless of political leaning, I would put the Tribune against any local paper in the country. There is more to it than politics. The Tribune has interesting special sections, does a good job reporting local high school sports and keeps us informed with regional news.
However, the Tribune forgot an important rule: “All politics are local.” While “the cartoon” dealt with a national issue, it became the tipping point for many local conservative readers, as Alford found out. Our conversation ended with an invitation to attend a Zoom meeting. I felt I owed him that.
Instead of shouting over each other, participants listened to points and experiences each person shared. From the conversations, perspective was provided from all sides and I hope to do justice summarizing.
The left wants recognition of injustice done to minorities, two standards of police practices and that there is racism, even locally. The right is tired of rioting not being dealt with, anti-police movements and having a left-biased media. All are correct and valid points. I think we could all agree if we addressed these as bullying and bad behavior. Just a suggestion.
Since June, I have had heartfelt conversations with friends locally, domestically and globally on many of these issues. One friend lives in the suburbs of Chicago. She has a 6-month-old son and wondered out loud if she should leave America.
She also has citizenship in Kenya. Even though her husband has been stopped by police for no reason other than color, she was more scared of the rioters and looters. She was upset that her local officials were not stopping the criminals, while politicians simultaneously called to defund police.
“There are items on both sides that need to be improved,” she said. I agree.
A metronome makes noise on the far left and right, but the majority of the work and movement is in between, just like people, politics and my friend’s views.
We all see things differently based upon our personal experiences. We have been so polarized and shouting over each other to prove our points that we haven’t taken a step back and deep breath to look at things objectively, without bias.
Kudos to Alford for addressing “the cartoon” instead of hiding. He provided a forum for civil conversation and understanding. It’s easier coming to the table when it’s not burning or being destroyed. We are all human and make mistakes. It’s how we deal with them in a positive fashion that can make meaningful and impactful differences.
Will the Tribune change?
For his efforts dealing with “the cartoon,” Alford needs his picture in the “Cheers and Jeers” column — this time under “Cheers.”
Blair is a lifelong area resident, farmer, drone consultant and Eisenhower Fellow. He lives in Kendrick.
As noted in Alford’s Sept. 4 column, the Tribune is in the process of expanding the Opinion page’s forum to include more viewpoints. Stay tuned for an update next Sunday.