Submitted by Annie Tonak
When I moved to a modest house in Guston. I had no idea that I would find a real home in Meade County, the community that embraced me and my children after my first husband’s unexpected death. I was surprised at how genuinely people cared about one another here, the authentic concern people shared about each other’s children, people sharing recipes in Kroger. This was a place that I felt comfortable settling, a place that didn’t just “talk the talk,” as we say, but authentically expressed and lived the meaning of a community. This was a community that understood what matters.
Lately, however, I’ve noticed a change in the statements made by community members about what matters. And what prompted this change? Meade County has asked questions about our local government. An interesting shift, as the questions that are being asked are exploring what is happening, and has happened, that directly affects us, the taxpayers. These statements are divisive, like the accusation that farmers are “adding feathers to their own nest.” Others have purported that people who do not blindly agree with elected officials have a personal interest in questioning the choices and words of fiscal court members and our state representative. These statements attempt to minimize the concerns of the general populous, and distract from the content of their questions. Ultimately, this rhetoric shifts the blame away from those who are charged with making decisions in our county to local people, honest, hard-working people who want transparency from those who represent the public.
These recent events in question mirror the things many of us resent happening in Washington D.C, like taxpayers being outside of the rooms where discussions are had, and those present likely being motivated to make decisions based their personal sense of electability. We are faced with an uncomfortable decision in response to choices made by our local government and those who have chosen to fan flames of disagreement; resign to what we perceive to be “our side,” or remember that we only ever take a stand because we care about each other and what happens in our community.
Whether you are one of the people experiencing prickling, unsettled feelings or persistent questions about what the general public does not know concerning the actions of our state representative and the members of our county fiscal court, or, if you are a person that recalls fond memories with these folks and supports them without question, I implore you to consider that there are some people that will continue to make assertions to divide us, particularly when the reputation of our elected officials are at stake. When we are divided, focusing on what we hate about others, we lose the opportunity for the conversations that truly grow us as a society and as a county. We forget that most of us have the same concern about the future and what we will leave behind for our children. As we fight amongst ourselves, our elected officials can comfortably continue private discussions that should be public and are able to continue pointing fingers at others, avoiding accountability.
I’d like to end this by making some assertions of my own. First, competent elected officials and politicians encourage discussion, anticipate questions, and honor the people they represent by allotting some of their time to ensure they have answers. Many of us despise elected officials in Washington for dishonesty and passing the buck, and the standard we desire for their behavior should be applied to all elected officials. Of course, people are personally interested in what’s happening with our local government; we pay them to represent us. Lastly, community members are typically the people helping others, and usually, without question. This may be noticing that a single person is working extra hours and dropping off some leftovers at dinnertime, or buying chocolates to support the MCHS band. It may even look like a farmer with already slim profit margins up much earlier than you and me, plowing, planting, and harvesting the food we buy at the grocery store. It could also look like a farmer clearing snow when the county is unable to in time for a neighbor to get to work.
One of the things I have learned since speaking with more of our community in recent weeks is that many of us understand we are not at the table, Meade County. Let’s not eat each other while politicians make their choices about who is on the menu.