Et Tu, Eline?
I once posted something on Twitter about how I was intentionally egging someone on or something and added #icanbedifficult at the end of the tweet. A friend jokingly said I could add that to everything I say.
OK, she wasn’t completely joking because the joke comes from the truth. I can be difficult. I don’t like to just accept things as they are, especially when discussing serious topics. We all bring our own prejudices to the table and sometimes need someone else to root them out in order to get to the heart of the matter.
When you work in newspapers, you get used to this kind of activity. Someone might bluster about with a far-ranging statement. Others will poke what holes they can in that theory to try and synthesize a less slanted pint of view.
What does this have to do with Hanover Borough councilman Sonny Eline, the inspiration for my headline? Well, I don’t think Sonny would enjoy the kind of discussions I do. In fact, I know he doesn’t because he banned me from a Facebook group he moderates for trying to get to the root of a discussion on parking downtown and how it relates to the 40 Days of Life protesters on the square.
(N.B. – I am not part of the protest group. I don’t generally like any protest. I’m a lover, not a fighter.)
Sonny moderates Hanover 4Ward, a group set up to
boost his self-esteem by having lots of people agree with him serve as a place where he can privately insult those who disagree with him provide a home for news and discussion on Hanover’s downtown area. He has every right to make the group private and allow who he pleases to join, but when he starts kicking people out and accusing them of having an ulterior motive (allegedly he said that about me, but since he kicked me out and hasn’t had the courtesy – a key word here – to contact me, I have to take the word of others), you have to wonder why someone who the public sees in the newspaper as a man dedicated to fixing downtown worries so much about hearing ideas other than his own.
The short version of the story is that a group of people on the page were discussing how they thought cars parked by the protesters on the northwest quadrant of the square were preventing people from patronizing downtown businesses, and they wanted someone to ask the protesters to move.
I merely pointed out (a bunch of times) that trying to stop/discouraging/suggesting people involved in a political protest from legally parking where they want to park is a very slippery slope. My reading comprehension and intelligence were questioned by people who said the protesters should move their cars as a “courtesy.” This same group asking for courtesy also called the protesters nuts, judgmental and many other negative adjectives.
But it’s not about about the cause, they say. It’s about protecting downtown businesses. They are just sure that a few cars (owned by people they called names and criticized for their political stance) in an 8-car parking lot which is surrounded by other parking lots for 40 days is doing great detriment to downtown businesses. This is all based on one anecdote of one person who had no idea who owned the cars parked in that quadrant. It was a quantum leap of logic that the protesters’ parking habits are truly having a serious impact on the party store and Alex’s Pizza.
They kept saying their piece. I kept pointing out logical fallacies. Back and forth, back and forth. Then I was kicked out of the group. Or I couldn’t access it anymore. I have only heard some things third hand.
Why does this matter? To me, it doesn’t a whole lot. One less group to check, one less headache. But when an elected official agrees to help a group (Sonny did say he would talk to the protest organizers about not parking in that quadrant) affect the use of public facilities by a group which is legally protesting simply because they think the protesters are causing an inconvenience without any real evidence to back it up other than a few personal anecdotes from people who don’t like the protesters, that’s a bad, bad, bad precedent.
The point I wanted to try and get across to the group was that the parking spaces downtown do not just exist for people running quickly into the nearby stores to spend money. There are lots of reasons to come downtown. Equating commerce with some sort of priority for public parking opens many doors of interpretation. Maybe if you asked the borough to take a comprehensive look at parking and possibly designate the quadrants as short-term parking without the possibility of feeding the meter all day for one vehicle, it would not seem like you just want people you find distasteful to park elsewhere.
But like anything that approaches the issue of abortion in any way possible, perspective is very difficult to find, and I got kicked out of the group as I attempted to bring that to the discussion. Don’t cry for me, though. Cry for the councilman who has trouble dealing with anyone other than those who champion his ideas.