Election 2016 Opinion

Martin: Unsigned letters amount to a coward’s viewpoint

musings by bryceReader beware.

I’m happy that Lori’s column this week is quite funny because mine is far from being a collection of happy thoughts.

So if you’re looking for something more cheerful, move your eyes just a few inches to the right.

That said, it’s time that I weigh in on the current election season. One race in particular, at least for now.

I’m guessing you know exactly which one I’m referencing. Yes, the contest for Bowman city commission president.

The Pioneer has received two letters in the past month. Both were cowardly left unsigned and had no return address. The most recent gave me the most pause.

The letter’s author hurled scurrilous allegations against Bowman City Commission President Lyn James. It was a list of “questions” tearing Commissioner James apart, politically, professionally and personally.

James’s opponent has publicly kept mum on the letters. Though he said he had nothing to do with them.

I believe him.

His wife later told me that they received what appeared to be the same letter we did. But they treated it like what it was: trash. They paid no attention to it and tossed it in the garbage bin.

That was a wise and honorable decision. It speaks volumes of the letter’s content that even an opponent, with everything to gain, simply threw it away.

While letters of opposition are to be expected in political races there was something very troubling with this letter. The writer had no clear grasp on fact, especially regarding the purview of the commission president or the whole city commission for that matter. I shook my head, almost laughed, at the most ridiculous of the claims.

Despite my opinion of the letter, I made it my goal to search for the facts, as this person obviously had not.

The letter accused James of demanding Southwest Healthcare build a new hospital (the city has nothing to do with the hospital’s decision making); that she was the sole person responsible for Southwest Healthcare not merging with West River Health Services (that was briefly a thing several decades ago but, again, the city has nothing to do with the hospital’s decisions); that she was the reason the school doesn’t have enough space for its teachers (city has nothing to do with decision made by the schools).

I questioned James about the more personal remarks — yes, I showed her the letter — and she balked.

Obviously there’s not much I could do to fact check personal items, but the writer seemed to have some knowledge of James’s private life. It pandered to the lowest form of gossip and filled with so much hate.

I’m not here to defend one candidate or another. My goal is to report the facts and occasionally share an opinion. I would have written this same column had I received a similar letter regarding James’s opponent. But whomever sent the letter had no facts. And their opinions turned into slanderous statements that ultimately seemed more an affront to their writer than the letter’s focus.

I took time to seek out the truth about some of the statements; my concern is that most people would simply accept them as fact and continue on with their lives. That muddies the water of discourse and results in the people being misinformed. That clearly happens a lot in this nation.

Careless gossip is spread all the time, but this letter was much more. Its intention was to take a cheap shot at James, both publicly and personally.

There’s a better, more dignified way to go about it.

Thumbing back through the pages of old editions of The Pioneer left me a bit disappointed.

Where are all the letters to the editor there once used to be?

People would write in, left and right, with letters spanning a variety of sometimes controversial topics. And they were all signed.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. Send a letter stating your opinion, yes, possibly written with snark or pointed statements (and that’s acceptable) — those are much more effective than outright hurtful personal attacks tantamount to childish bullying.

Anybody can yell, invent facts or be degrading. But it takes true character to get a point across without verbal bashing or inappropriate antics. Those are the opinions heard the loudest, at least in my experience.

Some people need to grow up or move on.

My hope is that the community comes together, to openly discuss political viewpoints and not just hide behind an unsigned letter.

GAMES