“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
– 18th Century French philosopher François-Marie Arouet (AKA Voltaire)
Shame on you Great Bend.
We are a small, rural town trying to maintain our identity and “Kansas nice” values in a world that appears to be going mad. Sadly, the behavior of many in this community of late is pushing Great Bend down that path.
This is a reference to the controversy swirling around suspended Police Chief Cliff Couch, now retired City Administrator Howard Partington, Mayor Mike Allison and the City Council.
Mistakes were made on all sides. And, no one is privy to the entire story behind this mess.
But, this hasn’t stopped the mob from taking up pitchforks and torches.
There was a comment on the Great Bend Tribune’s Facebook page on a related story that said “Rumor has it the city council has a few bullies and they don’t like being told they are wrong.”
When Partington announced his immediate retirement Wednesday, he said: “I have dedicated the past nearly 36 years to serving this community and looked forward to retirement early next year. However, the recent actions of a loud and malicious minority including bullying, relentless harassment, threats and untrue comments made about me have caused great pain to my family.
“This group has chosen to turn a policy dispute into a very personal attack on me and other officials. These malicious attacks have taken a devastating toll on my health, my wife’s health and the health of my daughter.”
Who’s being the bully? This is wrong.
Whatever happened to tolerance and since when was it wrong to disagree? Look people, we are not that far removed from the violence that rocked Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.
Here are some other comments from the Tribune’s Facebook page:
“Hang in there Chief maybe we can get rid of trash on the council.”
“Now throw him in jail for being a corrupt politician and ripping off the city and its residents all these years.”
“No no no Sonny died from all the crooked politics going on down at the city office building. Sonny had to put up with it for 18 years and 11 months that’s what killed Sonny.” and “Should’ve feed those crooked bastards to the tiger but hell he probably would have spit them back out cause there so rotten.” (These were posted on the story about Sunny the tiger’s death last week).
“Boycott.” (This was a call for folks to stay away from Party in the Park).
“The good ole boys looking out for each other. What a worthless bunch of *******.”
“**** city council! **** mike Allison AND partington! These **** sticks got to go!”
“Notice how close the Mayors girlfriend is sitting to him?”
Then there was the comment that Partington should be suspended, from a rope.
Council members who voted to suspend Couch have also been harassed and threatened.
This is a free society and we do have the right to voice our opinions and opposition. It is also our right and duty to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions.
But, is this how we do that here? Since when was it acceptable to shout down those we disagree with and threaten them?
There have also been reports of other city officials and businesses targeted for not supporting the Save Couch movement or sporting a blue sign.
This has attracted outside media attention. Great Bend is getting a black eye.
What is needed is leadership, true leadership, from all parties. Frustration is understandable, but it is not an excuse to ignore decorum, dignity and respect for our fellow human beings.
When the dust settles, and it will settle, the real loser in all of this is all of us, our community. Lines have been drawn and schisms created, and we can pray these can be erased and healed.
Then there was this post: “Does anyone really win in all this ...right or wrong, on either side. let’s remember to be human and kind ...lives have been changed and many innocent people have been directly effected on both sides ..remember we are a community of neighbors ..there’s enough hate in the world, take a stand but don’t stand on people when u use your voice ...”
Maybe there is hope.