A Doug's Life: All I Ask is a Little Respect -- and Not for Me

Pardon my ignorance, but will someone please tell me when respect and common courtesy went out of st...

Pardon my ignorance, but will someone please tell me when respect and common courtesy went out of style? Apparently, I never got the memo.

I think I can remember the last time I heard someone express respect for another's opinion, but the memory is fading. Anyone else notice that people these days are far more likely to tell you why you're wrong than why they're right? Even worse, they're downright nasty about it.

The most extreme examples are in the political arena or anything involved with government. I mean, there are no two sides to an issue anymore. Either you see it my way or you're an idiot, right?

Yeah, that's a real adult attitude.

Take the current presidential race, for example. I refused to watch any of the Republican or Democratic national conventions, simply because character assassination isn't tremendously appealing to me. Just seeing the many rants on Facebook is more than enough for me. If a candidate spends half his time telling me how bad the other guy is, I'm thinking he's pretty darn insecure himself. Whatever happened to stating your beliefs clearly and letting me decide whether you're better suited for the job than your opponent?

But as bad as this whole Romney-Obama showdown is, it pales in comparison to what goes on every other Tuesday in the Menifee City Council Chambers. You want to see and hear bitterness and hatred? Stop by City Hall just after 7 p.m. on Sept. 18. Sadly, it's guaranteed.

And this time, the politicians aren't the main culprits. It's people who live and work right alongside us here in Menifee. I call them the Haters -- that small group of residents who show up at every meeting, determined to use their three minutes of fame to denigrate, humiliate and castigate council members.

City policy allows residents three minutes each to speak during the "public comments" portion of city council meetings. At various points of the meeting, they are allowed to address issues not on the agenda and to speak during public hearings on a specific subject. The last line of Menifee's "decorum policy notes" at the end of each printed agenda states that "while we encourage participation, we ask there be a mutual respect for the proceedings."

Good luck with that.

From what I can determine, the Haters have made it their mission to disrupt city council meetings ever since Menifee voters approved cityhood in 2008. Most of these folks are residents of Sun City, and it's obvious they wanted to stay that way and not be placed under the umbrella of a Menifee government with which they don't agree.

I can understand where they're coming from. Sun City was a relatively quiet, rural community of mostly senior citizens for decades. But in the last 10 years, new housing has cropped up all over the place. Without meaning to, young families are starting to surround the old folks. The resulting demand for growth has led to the arrival of new businesses and traffic that is at times unbearable.

Fine. I get that.

If I were in their position, I'd be frustrated, too. I might even share their belief that the "pro development" faction of the city council outnumbers the "traditionalists" 3-2 in most votes. Yeah, that would probably stick in my craw.

But I darn sure wouldn't embarrass myself the way many of these folks do during their three minutes of "fame." I mean, what does it prove, other than you can't control your emotions?

There's a whole list of these people who speak at every city council meeting, whether they have a legitimate gripe or not. After a while, it becomes clear that their purpose is not so much to address specific issues as it is to attack certain council members out of frustration and hatred. You hear these people often enough and their credibility goes right out the window.

No one is claiming that Menifee city council members are perfect, or that they always make the right decisions. But no one deserves the kind of treatment these politicians are given on a regular basis. It's cruel, unprofessional and childlike, and it's an embarrassment to others who have to sit through it week after week.

You don't agree with something the council does? Fine. State your case. If you absolutely disagree with something a council member has said or done, express your feelings in a respectful manner -- being respectful not just because the council member is a public official, but because he or she is a human being. Believe it or not, it can be done.

Because of public meeting protocol, council members do not respond to public comments. They have to sit there and take it while the locals take pot shots at them. To a degree, that's part of the job. But when someone calls you out, attacks your political party beliefs or uses sarcasm in an attempt to humiliate you, it's time to clear the room.

If you ask me -- and I know the Haters didn't -- a little respect would go a lot further than personal attacks against these public servants. Don't like what they're doing? Don't vote for them in the upcoming election. That's your right.

But while they're still in office -- and if they remain in office come November -- try some constructive criticism for a change. Really, it should not be about the Haters and their personal issues. It should be about what's best for all of Menifee. And that will only come about if common decency is observed.

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