In this heated political season that is upon us, just about any issue can be made into a platform for public discourse.
Masks are just the latest. The day after Scottsdale, like other cities around the Valley, enacted an ordinance requiring that we wear them in public places, a neighbor pulled me aside. She had just returned from the post office where a maskless man berated her for wearing one.
I guess it didn’t matter to him that she was obeying the law, and he was not. Or that yelling at a woman (or a man) half your size in a public setting is demeaning and possibly threatening.
It was a political volley, not a public health statement.
Same with this week’s protest at City Hall. And if Guy Phillips has not resigned his City Council seat and quit the campaign for his re-election by the time you read this, it would show he really is not the kind of leader, or neighbor, that any of us should desire.
He took the dialogue to a new low by appearing on stage wearing a mask, saying “I can’t breathe” in reference to the George Floyd murder that has rocked our nation. He’s been denounced across the board from leaders including Gov. Doug Ducey and Mayor Jim Lane. But Phillips’ words hurt and the damage has been done.
Thus goes life today. Politically charged in every direction, culturally challenged in just about every neighborhood while a deadly virus keeps poking away at any small opening it can find to penetrate our lives, giving no indication that it’s going to let up anytime soon.
Now is the time for neighbors to act like neighbors. To support each other in all of the challenges we face, not berate each other. To raise above the political rhetoric, debate the issues we disagree on and do it with dignity and respect for each other.
Much of what we face together is far beyond our control. But there are some things we can do. Like monitor how we talk to each other, and have a little compassion along the way.
And now is the time for leaders to act like leaders, including those who desire to assume those positions.
As the local political scene unfolds, watch the candidates for local offices, where your vote, one single vote, really can make a difference.
It’s already getting a little rough around the edges in the races for Scottsdale mayor and the three seats that are coming open on City Council. As the summer heats up, the races drag on and our out-of-control challenges linger, the discourse has the potential to go downhill fast.
This is a time when authentic leaders stand out, lead with dignity and compassion and model for us all how to behave when times are tough. Pay attention. Who is it that you want to follow?
Editor’s note: Mr. Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org