Forbearance needed

Despite continued calls for increased civility at every level of public life, we seem to be living in an age of rage. A steady stream of righteous anger is expressed at issue after issue and leader after leader, especially online.

It’s a good thing that this country has systems in place to hold leaders to account. Allegations of misbehavior can, and should, be brought before corporate boards, school boards, human rights commissions, ethics commissions and the courts.

There certainly are infractions serious enough for the offender to lose his or her job. But every mistake and every unpopular decision need not be an occasion to call for heads to roll.

On the soccer field and basketball court, it’s traditional and expected for fans to express differences of opinion with the officials, often quite loudly. But if a fan or coach called for a referee to be fired every time they disagreed with a call, teams would never get through a whole game.

What does it take to triage one’s concerns and pick one’s battles in the interest of “getting through the game”?

Sometimes it’s expressing concerns to an elected representative about a particular issue without threatening to vote them out if they don’t toe the line. Of course elections are intended to fill governing bodies with a representative sample of residents’ values and views. But the growing culture of the permanent campaign has made it much more difficult for any elected official to represent fairly the district’s diverse interests. More conversations with leaders, not fewer, are needed to build stronger, and less adversarial, relationships.

Sometimes it’s supporting compromise solutions, even though those may not be ideal. Last week’s vote in the Legislature on extending tax breaks for Bath Iron Works is a case in point.

Mount Desert Island’s Rep. Brian Hubbell wrote that while he understood the concerns of the bill’s opponents, he voted in favor of the bill as amended by the taxation committee. “I believe that when one negotiates and wins real concessions, one also must support the final agreement,” he said.

To be sure, second-guessing and mudslinging often sends the legislative session into overtime. Suspicions and lawsuits are constant sand in the gears of state government, reducing efficiency and wasting public funds.

Might a better balance be found between holding decision makers accountable and working together to forge good-enough solutions to the many challenges we face?

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