Does anyone else feel burned out? I sure do. Over the last year, we’ve had too much solitude, too much tragedy, too much conflict and too much noise. Amid a heavily-politicized pandemic, one of the most contentious elections in a generation and a news cycle that has been dominated by scandals and disaster, we’re all just tired. In a time when our face-to-face interaction has been replaced with tweets, likes and posts, our discourse has become less civil and has lost focus.
It’s frustrating when issues at the local level get lost in this same style of rhetoric. As we sit in our homes, dealing with the fallout of this last year on our jobs, our families and our mental health, there are some who have cynically chosen to use this collective trauma for political gain.
The FBI corruption investigation and its revelations have been a stain on this city’s history and our reputation. Our public trust was betrayed by those put in place to represent us. As a portion of this trial concluded in mid-August, we were given the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and do better moving forward. Instead, the ghost of corruption has been revived and forced upon us — a “dark cloud” that has not been allowed to dissipate. And for what? For the self-serving purpose of branding political rivals and frightening an already-weary populace into making decisions born out of fear.
So we find ourselves staring down the barrel of yet another election season where smear campaigns replace issue-based platforms. As accusations, censures and threats are launched like missiles back and forth, Tallahassee’s reputation becomes collateral damage.
Mailers and advertisements created by lobbyists, PR consultants and out-of-town special interests will smear the entire business community, lumping hard-working Tallahasseeans together and labelling them as “corrupt” and “special interests.” These same Tallahasseeans will be force-fed a series of false choices, created for catchy Facebook ads and radio sound bites, while struggling to feed their families, educate their children and run their businesses.
It doesn’t have to be this way. These public battles cause real damage to our city’s reputation, as entrepreneurs and investors wonder whether they can flourish in Tallahassee without the right connections, and whether our leaders represent their interests or just the interests of the well-connected. We should talk about the things that actually make a difference for Tallahassee residents, rather than obscuring the issues with finger-pointing and name-calling.
Because censures don’t create jobs and accusations don’t put food on the table. Neither help Tallahassee grow. It’s all just noise without substance, and Tallahassee deserves better.