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Ottawa County paying the high cost of culture wars

The phrase “democracy” is from the Greek for “people” and “power.”  A democracy is authorities of, by, and for the individuals — all of them, not only a sure subset.  Democracy embraces particular person variations and seeks compromise, whereas undemocratic societies privilege sure teams primarily based on wealth, race, household lineage, or perception.

“Culture war” is a time period utilized by political scientists and sociologists to explain ideological conflicts between teams holding differing values.  When these values and beliefs spill over into politics, cultural flashpoints turn into obstacles to democratic authorities.

Barbara MezeskeBarbara Mezeske

Barbara Mezeske

In fashionable America, points of faith and household culture have turn into political.  These points embrace variety initiatives, civil rights for LGBTQ+ individuals, abortion, contraception, race, and censorship.  Such variations have been with us all alongside:  what’s new is that they’ve turn into political wedge points.  What can also be new is that self-serving politicians experience these points into energy, dividing voters into tribes relatively than uniting us as communities.

Culture wars are being fought in Ottawa County.  A first-rate instance is final week’s board of commissioners’ assembly the place a three-minute opening invocation by a member of the Satanic Temple of West Michigan was adopted by greater than two hours of public remark by which audio system proclaimed their Christian religion, invoked Jesus, rebuked Satan, and defended free speech.  It was an instance of high political theater, pushed by ardour.

There is a cost to this type of efficiency. The first is time. County board conferences below the management of Joe Moss and the different Ottawa Impact commissioners have ballooned into hours-long marathons. At least one commissioner, Kyle Terpstra, resigned partially as a result of household {and professional} obligations didn’t go away him sufficient time to sit down by means of the conferences. At final week’s assembly, Commissioner Jacob Bonnema left after two hours, saying “When they decide to do actual business of the county again, I will be there with bells on.”

The second cost of cultural warfare is cash. The try to fireside county well being director Adeline Hambley, the ensuing authorized battles, and the still-contentious relationship between the board and the well being division have been fueled by a cultural challenge: necessary masks and lockdowns throughout the preliminary months of the COVID pandemic.  Another lawsuit over who will get to supply an invocation was filed by an Episcopalian priest whose liberal views relating to LGBTQ+ individuals stored him off the roster initially.

The improve in time spent in conferences has led to the Ottawa Impact commissioners’ newest proposal to extend their pay by 60%. Why? Because the job takes a lot time.

There can also be a cost to public well being. When one set of household values shapes public well being coverage, and when that set of values isn’t tied to medical analysis, the cost is measurable. Today’s dad and mom haven’t skilled rampant instances of measles, mumps, or hen pox that occurred earlier than vaccines for these diseases grew to become accessible. Neither have they skilled the worry of polio. Some consider vaccinations trigger autism, although that isn’t supported by science. The board final August handed a decision requiring the well being division to promote vaccine waivers. The decline in childhood vaccination is a measurable cost.

Family values that reject variations in sexual identification or sexual habits additionally stand in the method of public well being makes an attempt to guard and educate individuals relating to protected intercourse and STDs. Disapproving of sure sexual behaviors and refusing to interact in such behaviors on ethical grounds is one’s proper.  That proper, nevertheless, doesn’t make these behaviors disappear in society.

The best cost of cultural warfare is the misdirection of authorities power. Since taking workplace in January 2023, the Ottawa Impact majority has handed a sequence of largely symbolic resolutions. They have modified the county emblem from “where all belong” to “where freedom rings.” They have declared us a “constitutional county.” They have handed a decision to “Protect Childhood Innocence.” Last week they handed a “Resolution to Support Life”, which prevents an issue that doesn’t exist: county assets and personnel don’t present abortions and by no means have.

Participating in cultural warfare will get in the method of what authorities must be doing. Rather than resolving variations and dealing for the widespread good, governing turns into a struggle to protect the identification or in some instances the ascendancy of a subset of the inhabitants.

Even calling cultural variations a “war” suggests the path we’re headed:  in search of victory over these whose values differ from ours, relatively than discovering a method to transfer everybody ahead collectively.

Culture wars give politicians a simple route to realize consideration or votes by stirring up feelings, by pointing to threats that don’t exist, and by encouraging us to distance ourselves from others. That’s a betrayal of democratic ideas which maintain that everyone deserves a seat at the desk.

Politics is compromise however the nature of morality for many individuals is black and white. The two can and should co-exist: one in the public sphere, and the different in non-public.

— Community Columnist Barbara Mezeske is a retired instructor and resident of Park Township. She could be reached at [email protected].

This article initially appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Barbara Mezeske: Culture war drains Ottawa County

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