It really is ok to agree to disagree

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

I'm gonna start a revolution from my bed.

-- Oasis

There's a classic "Seinfeld" episode in which Jerry, angry that one of Kramer's girlfriends heckles him unmercifully during his standup act, goes to her office and returns the favor.

I won't try to speak for Dennis Roland, Betty Johnson, Bill Williams, Rick Muggridge or Ed Duffy -- current members of the Lee County Commission -- but I'd be willing to bet they -- and members of most other elected governmental bodies in the region -- wouldn't mind an opportunity to react in kind to some of their critics.

Certainly no one who runs for elected office is naive enough to believe he or she will be beloved by all and never have a decision challenged. But the haters in Lee County and other communities in the metro region seem to hate with a vengeance.

If some among the populace in this region don't agree with a decision made by their government leaders, they don't just express opposing views. They use whatever forum is available to -- anonymously, of course -- call those leaders the ugliest names they can come up with without being censored.

Thus, Lee's commissioners have been called morons, liars, thieves, idiots and other similar terms of endearment.

I've been to every Lee County Commission meeting that's been held in the last couple of years. In that time, that body has made decisions that baffled me, and the commission has taken action that I've opposed wholeheartedly.

But at no time have I witnessed action taken by the board that would indicate its members are idiots or morons or thieves. Quite the opposite, I've found most decisions have come after copious amounts of consideration and deliberation.

And, after having gotten to know each of the Lee commissioners on something of a personal level, I haven't seen evidence that they at any time have made a decision that the majority didn't believe was in the best interest of the community. Those decisions haven't always worked out that way, but if intent is the basis for judgment, these commissioners seem to truly want to do what's best for the community.

I've often wondered -- and I've even asked several elected officials -- why they'd want to put up with the headaches that come with the job. It can't be the money ($443.38 a month in Lee County), and it most definitely isn't about glory.

Nowadays, with the Internet offering almost unlimited access and any number of opportunities to criticize from the privacy of a computer keyboard, more and more would-be candidates, people who are extremely qualified, are taking a pass on running for office. The hassles, they say, just aren't worth it.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with taxpaying citizens holding their elected officials accountable. And citizens SHOULD call out those officials when their actions bring less than desirable results. But it's also not asking too much for these self-appointed watchdogs to exhibit at least an ounce or two of decency.

If your officials are not fulfilling campaign promises, by all means say so. But before you resort to name-calling, consider that these officials are people, too, with families and friends who read all the anonymous hate-speech that's spewed on the Internet.

Heck, if officials' actions make you that angry, log off long enough to sign up and run against them. But be forewarned: If you manage to scare up enough votes to get elected, there are people out there waiting to turn their scrutiny on you.

Expect no mercy ... these people are, after all, just like you.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.