COLUMN: Pat Merriman

As readership of our humble newsletter grows exponentially each week, this 4th edition, in conjunction with the Dunn County Herald newspaper, is going to contain our next new feature.

 

By PAT MERRIMAN | Dunn County Assistant State’s Attorney

As readership of our humble newsletter grows exponentially each week, this 4th edition, in conjunction with the Dunn County Herald newspaper, is going to contain our next new feature–whenever there is an article/editorial in any mainstream, traditional, locally-read newspaper (or other media) which addresses an issue touching on law enforcement, and if I think it’s newsworthy, I am going to personally respond, ala Paul Harvey and Maggie Piatz, with the “rest of the story” or, publish any press release issued by a law enforcement agency which sets out any additional, relevant facts germane to the original story which were not included. Just to get my 2¢ worth in or, let the “other guy”. Sort of like Fox News’ motto, “we report, you decide”. 
So…on this first occasion of using the power of the Internet, please note that at least four local articles, in the past 60 days, have touched directly (or indirectly) on the issue of impassioned supporters for a particular candidate for public office this year and, the acrimony being generated because of what is (in reality) just two people who are disagreeing about who should win the election; but, the lack of civility and public discourse that seems to inure and, which is simply neither polite nor necessary! I know you will find it hard to believe up here where some very opinionated people live but, sometimes (because of loyalty to a friend or mentor), they take it too far. My Grandma Vera always told me that a gentlemen is someone who always tries to make people feel comfortable around them; and, 2 gentlemen can always disagree about something, yet, still remain civil to each other, particularly, in the same room. So, FYI: support for one candidate over another is not a personal attack on someone else who disagrees with you. 
And, by the way, in a June 9th conversation that I personally had with the Secretary of State’s office (the official charged with calling the balls & strikes about campaign tactics) about an unrelated issue, I was told that the ND State Legislature amended the campaign provisions of the Century Code last year and, frankly, a lot of people (across the state) were complaining about things that were no longer “illegal” now! Of course, I had actually read those new provisions before engaging in our campaign but, it has been an exercise in patience being lectured about “the law” by well-meaning, but wrong, campaign watch-dogs. And, to settle the dust, there is an easy solution to the mole hill, folks… public debates instead of private/public gossip. In fact, if I have heard that question come from one citizen, I’ve heard from at least a dozen (from my son-in-law Stephen to my friends at breakfast over at Nana Lil’s) is the assumption that someone is going to sponsor meet-the-candidates forums or debates?? But, frankly, I haven’t heard that anyone has stepped up to take point on that project. All that’s necessary is for a civic leader to take charge (in my old hometown, it was usually the League of Women Voters who did the work), find a neutral moderator or, just sponsor an event in each town, a course of meetings would go a long way towards helping the voters make an informed choice. Let’s leave the fence line telegraph (maligning a particular candidate) in favor of letting the people who are running actually face their accusers! 
The dark side of politics is “negative campaigning” or “mudslinging”. In other words, it’s not about my qualifications for office, it’s the other fella’s perceived shortcomings that is the thing! And, that polarizes a community creating rifts that can last for years. So, I also agree with the local mainstream media, there is no place for that type of mud-slinging, rumor, speculation and innuendo. If the candidate has any dirty laundry…produce the clear & convincing evidence that bears on their integrity, honor or fitness to hold office (instead of gossiping about it) and let them try to explain the situation! Because, the simple truth is that is what the public deserves and, particularly, in the next 4 months, while elections are “interesting” to armchair politicos, they really are about where those of us who currently do the job are going to live, how his/her family is going to eat and pay the bills, and where their kids (or grandchildren) are going to go to school after November 4th! It’s not a game or a sporting event to us…it’s serious business. It’s about our lives and livelihood which are not abstract concepts. Why I, personally, spent almost 6 months pondering Ross’ retirement and whether I really wanted to put my family through the gauntlet of rural, county politics. Again, that’s 2,008 square miles and over 4,000 hands to shake and…I’m too old to run marathons anymore!


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