At the risk of sounding like my mother: Moscow, I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed.I don’t know if the masks really do cut off oxygen to our brains (they don’t – they definitely do not) or if the social distancing has made us forget how to be around other people, but recently we have repeatedly failed to meet the minimum threshold for human decency.

To the guilty parties, the offenses may have seemed like small things.

The heated individual at the city council meeting who repeatedly called the mayor a terrorist for issuing a mask-wearing mandate may have felt the insult was justified or maybe even insignificant. But to the conservative mayor who takes no pleasure in wielding executive power yet takes very seriously his responsibility to protect the physical and economic health of the community, it was a painful blow – not to an ego but to a weary heart.

The online mob up in arms when someone proposed an outdoor, socially-distanced and properly masked American flag rally on the Fourth of July no doubt believed their baseless accusations that it was actually a white nationalist, anti-BLM rally wouldn’t lead to the end of the world. But the unceasing vitriol felt like the end of the world to the innocent young man who dreamed up the event as a simple way to promote unity on America’s birthday.

It used to be that sending a token of appreciation to someone who helped you was a good thing, and acknowledging that gift was a thoughtful gesture in return. That is no longer the case according to the jeers the Moscow Police Department received for publicly recognizing a local church for sending cookies after the police responded to a call earlier in the week. You would have thought the MPD endorsed kicking puppies or rooting for Boise (is not a) State the way people piled on, not that they did what they always do – said thank you via social media.

There is room in our community for reasoned, respectful criticism, and reasoned, respectful criticism was shared in all of the instances above. That’s fine. We don’t always agree. We shouldn’t always agree. By sharing our unique knowledge and perspectives we can learn and grow together.

But there is no learning on either side when we resort to anger. The only growth that comes from hate-spewing is factions of people growing further apart.

Moscow, we’re better than that.

Whichever side of whatever issue we’re on, we all need to get off our high horses and get back on the high road. That’s the road taken by those who believe “whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” It’s the road we take when we follow “when they go low, we go high.”

Unfortunately when we’ve slipped into nasty, venomous territory there is only one way out – one uncomfortable, painful way out. Introspection.

See, I can easily see where the person I’m arguing with went south. I can pinpoint the exact point in our conversation when he stopped listening and just started trying to set me up for a “gotcha” moment. That’s easy and obvious.

Harder to see, or at least to admit, but ultimately the only thing I can change? My part in the whole affair.

Admitting that I went into the conversation not listening at all, that I had no intention of having my viewpoint broadened or of discovering common ground. Oof. That hurts to admit.

Believing that I’m correct but acknowledging a lot of my argument was a series of cheap shots meant to inflict pain instead of actually moving the discussion forward. That stings more than a little.

Spending the aftermath of the discussion dissecting my own contributions to it going poorly instead of pinpointing the other side’s failings? Then making a plan on how I can be better in the future – not a better debater, but a better partner in a conversation? Ouch. Major growing pains.

If I climb the steep grade to the high road, will my neighbors move with me? Some will. Many won’t. But at least I’ll be out of the mud, and the view will be significantly nicer.

Jade Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.

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