What, no more decorum?


So much time has been spent on the debate over whether football players are disrespecting the flag and the national anthem by not standing, that we’ve virtually ignored a level of disrespect hitting us much closer to home.

In the last week, our community has hosted two important meetings — one focused on the homelessness problem in the city, a second about a constitutional convention referendum voters will find on the November ballot — getting press attention not just over the subject matter, but how disrespectful we’ve become to one another.

At the Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Kingsbridge last week, advocates for providing services to our homeless population were continuously shouted down in a forum designed to help educate this community on the homeless. Instead of simply waiting their turn like everyone else, those against a proposed transitional homeless facility at 5731 Broadway simply had to keep interrupting — including one man who left the meeting abruptly in a flurry of obscenities, while still inside a house of worship.

Just a few blocks away, the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club went through something similar, except this time, both sides of a debate over a constitutional convention involved interruptions and shouting matches.

Seeing such passion over important debates for our community is encouraging — but not at the level we’ve seen here.

At Church of the Mediator, people against the homeless shelter complained their rights were being violated, because they claimed they were not being given an opportunity to speak. Yet, what about the rights of everyone else who wanted to hear what was being said, by all sides? 

The old saying about freedom is that “my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” By shouting out, interrupting, and simply being disruptive, you weren’t giving anyone a chance to hear what could be some strong arguments against the shelter — instead, you turned people off from whatever you had to say.

Our community is one known for its passionate residents, who stand up for what they believe in — even if their views are in a minority. But it’s also a community known to respect each other, to have a debate, and not only talk — but listen.

It’s something that happens on this very page each and every week. The words you read in this space is the newspaper’s singular chance to share our views. But then everything else on this page and the Op-Ed that typically follows it? That’s you talking and the rest of us listening.

Communication is a two-way street: One side speaks, and the other listens. Then the roles switch. 

Everyone deserves the right to speak, but they also deserve the right to be heard. It requires a level of respect, one that each and every one of us are capable of providing. No matter what side of the fence you’re sitting on.