Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stormy Weather

"Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky ... Stormy weather"

Sure, it's the opening line from a 1933 song by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, but it's also a pretty apt description of the furor surrounding a recent column by Toledo Free Press editor-in-chief Michael Miller. It seems that Michael took umbrage with District 9 Republican candidate for the House Rich Iott's wearing of a Waffen SS uniform while participating in his hobby of war re-enactment and how it might impact his ability to serve as a NW Ohio representative in Congress.

I can't and won't say that I agree with all of Michael's reasoning in his offering, and in fact I wrote a piece in the same edition espousing a different point of view (an effort which seemed to go largely unnoticed in the furor to tar and feather both Michael and the TFP).

I am not exposed to the same sources of information that Michael is exposed to both locally or nationally however, nor do I travel in the same circles in NW Ohio that he does; so I recognize that there may be facts in evidence that he may be aware of that I am not. This hasn't changed my opinion of Mr Iott, who I believe would be much better for the future of NW Ohio than incumbent Rep Marcy Kaptur; nor has it changed my opinion of Michael Miller, someone I believe likewise serves the best interests of Toledo and NW Ohio.

There have been many well-documented efforts on the part of Mr Miller and the TFP to support worthy causes, worthy candidates, and worthy values in the area; efforts that have earned both due respect and praise. I would venture to say as well, that while he and the TFP now find themselves under fire from the right, that they found themselves under equal pressure from other directions when supporting the United Way's right to tear down their own building, or when shining a less than flattering light on the 'business as usual' politics in both the mayor's office and city council in Toledo.

According to the response that I read in some of the local blogs, the comments to the column, and the subsequent letters-to-the-editor sent to the Free Press itself, I appear to find myself in the minority (something that I have grown used to over the years). Apparently the TFP was so evil and close-minded that it even allowed follow up pieces by others (people that I also respect) in the following edition. It does seem strange to me however, that so many apparent long-time friends and fans are ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater in the case of Mr Miller and the TFP because he has written something that they disagree with. It also seems strange to me that some are now attempting to define all of Michael's efforts by this one piece, condemning him with faint praise and vowing to end their relationship with him and the paper.

As my own efforts going forward will show (including one this weekend), I have not. And while I understand that strong feelings can often come in the days leading up to an election, the decision of so many to make so abrupt a break with a such positive force in a city that needs all that it can get is something of a disappointment to me. I know that I have any number of friends and family that disagree with my opinions, and some rather strongly. I share many spirited debates with those loved ones and colleagues whose opinions I value and likewise totally disagree with. So I was forced to ask myself:

  • Would these same people sever ties with a family member for expressing a view that they don't agree with?
  • Would these same people abandon a friendship with someone because they voiced an opinion or voted for a candidate that they opposed?
  • Would they judge either friend or family on the basis of 1% of the views that they espouse, when they agree with the other 99%?
If any of this is the case, perhaps the relationship was not all that can or should be expected of what I at least would define as friendship.

Perhaps this outpouring of well-intentioned and strongly-held opinion is exactly what so many are saying is wrong with politics today. Perhaps some are so concerned with winning the game that they will abandon both a friend and the willingness to concede that someone else might have a valid point of view in trying to do so.

Let me say once again and for the record, I will not.

I waited this long to write anything on the subject in the hopes that somehow the apparent frenzy and furor would subside, that the clouds would part and the sun would begin to shine once again on Toledo and The Free Press. We may need to wait to see the results of the election however, before the dust settles on yet another cycle of campaign rhetoric amped up to the volume of 'fighting words' and cooler heads can prevail. Meanwhile, as recent climatic disturbances have shown us, this is indeed the season for both real and political stormy weather.

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