Specht: How did we treat our fellow man?

Specht

In the words of the legendary Ron Burgundy, “That escalated quickly.” No truer words have ever been spoken as it concerns the fight over the contained burn chamber at Camp Minden.

As your local newspaper, we have had a front row seat throughout this journey, from the explosion in 2012, to the latest official action by the Webster Parish Police Jury. What started out as an effort that brought out the best in people has deteriorated to bringing out the worst in them.

When the explosion took place, and the subsequent decision by the powers that be to allow open burning of the M6, citizens united to stop it. They succeeded and it was a win for Webster Parish. We all had reason to be proud.

For the past 12 months, Explosive Services International has disposed of the M6 without incident. What should be a celebration of a job well done has been lost in this fight over whether the burn chamber should be allowed continued use beyond its current contract.

Over the past several months, we have seen an escalation of this dispute from a “war of words” from activists, to downright venomous commentary. These are not exactly some of our community’s proudest moments. Meanwhile, the world watches.

Let’s be clear. Fear is a real thing. Whether it is fear for one’s health, employment, or future wellbeing, these are very real concerns and should never be discounted. However, playing on those fears is manipulative.

In addition, demonizing individuals for the sake of “the cause” is simply wrong. Regardless of which side of this issue one lands, they are still people. Whether “concerned citizens,” or employees of ESI, we need to remember this fight is about the issues surrounding the burn chamber.

Folks on both sides have families and interests in Webster Parish. Folks on both sides believe their cause is just, and in the best interest of the majority of our citizens. But somehow, the debate has moved from a difference of opinion to the vilifying of parties and individuals on both sides.

“If you only knew the gravity of the situation, you’d understand.” Interestingly, I have heard this very statement on both sides of this issue.

A difference opinion on a very important matter does not necessarily constitute “good” on one side and “evil” on the other. Yet, it seems that is exactly what is happening here. In addition, the immediate, reactionary nature of social media such as Facebook has exacerbated the situation, as folks tend to “pile on” in the comments.

It is not my intent to change anyone’s mind on the subject of the contained burn chamber. Most folks have formulated their own opinion about it. I respect the right to one’s opinion. Where I draw the line is the trashing of individuals, be they members of a voluntary organization, elected officials, or local businesspeople. It is one thing to vehemently disagree. It is quite another to personally attack someone.

Meanwhile, the regional media have taken notice of our “in-fighting.” One has to wonder how we look to the rest of the world, including businesses and industries that may want to locate here? How we handle our disagreements is equally important to the outcome of them. The end doesn’t always justify the means.

I ask that our citizens, regardless of their stance on the contained burn chamber issue, look into the future. How did we treat our fellow man? How did we handle conflict and controversy? Will we look back and be proud of how we acted?
We are better than this — at least we should be.

David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers, Inc. He may be reached via email at dspecht@press-herald.com.

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