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Humble pie for the evening’s dessert

by Ken Saydak
LA VETA — I attended a La Veta Town Board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 17 specifically to speak to one agenda item. I’m not going to detail the item here, because it has been addressed, at least for now, in a mutually satisfactory way to the parties involved. Besides that, the specifics are not directly relevant to the moral of this story.

I will say that it was an emotionally charged matter, and there were some heated comments unleashed. I was one of those who contributed to the hostile tone, as I was incredulous that the item had actually reached the official meeting agenda. I was fully prepared for conflict, and I was not the only one who expected it.

After a back and forth between the trustees and the audience, a kind of detente was achieved. Not because either side convinced the other to “back down.” Nor was it a case of either side “seeing the light” and changing their opinions concerning the potential vote, a vote which would have caused some very contentious reactions.

No, it was a much more subtle evolution in the discussion that turned things in the direction of reasonable. A man in the audience, let’s just call him Jonathan, raised his hand to contribute to the exchange. In his comments, he didn’t offer simple platitudes like, “Can’t we all just get along.” Instead he was quite clear in his evaluation, assigning culpability where he felt it was earned. It was his tone, however, which stilled the room. He spoke in measured terms, in an even voice, and offered irrefutable observations without a trace of anger or righteousness.

It turns out that even the accused will listen when the accusation doesn’t sound like one. He brought the boil down to a simmer and spoke with a purpose: to solve, to unite, to actually accomplish a meeting of the minds on an issue that had been forged in hostility. It worked. The item was tabled and the opposing parties agreed to a workshop to try and remedy the longstanding problem.

In his remarks, Jonathan accurately pointed out that the atmosphere of our little town hall meeting was really a microcosm of the worldwide trend of inflexibility and refusal to compromise toward the outcome which we all say we want: what is best for the most. We seem to live in a constant standoff these days, frozen into ineffectiveness by our divisions. And all it took was for one person to state what should be obvious to us all.

It was a humbling experience for me, as I contributed as much to the emotional fervor of the initial discussion as anyone there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shrinking from my opinions on the matter any more than those on the other side of the table are. It’s just that a glass wall that we had willingly constructed between us was shattered. That wall had been erected in the current politically toxic environment and under the stress of a universally endured pandemic, which have both scared us all into our respective corners.

Thanks, Jonathan, you made my day.