Childish Arguments Close Door on Discussion

I am a Yooper, raised in Hancock. My dad was raised in Iron Mountain. My mother, though, was born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi. Growing up, our vacations meant driving to Natchez to visit Mom's side of the family. Ten minutes after seeing my cousins again we were arguing about who won the Civil War.

It was a child's argument.

It also reminds me of current politics and the way we treat each other. After bitter and expensive elections in 2012, I believed the poisonous rhetoric would subside and that we would move on: one state, one nation. I was wrong. In fact, the viciousness and personal nature of attacks has intensified, with vows of "revenge" overwhelming hopes for success.

Last month, I was asked by a local reporter what the Chamber thought of an ad run by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in the Wall Street Journal that mentioned Right-to-Work and used the Pure Michigan logo. I explained the MEDC has used Pure Michigan for all its marketing for two years, so that made sense. But, while "technically appropriate" that the ad include Right-to-Work (the legislation did pass), it was probably inappropriate given the timing and the uncertainty still surrounding the legislation.

My response elicited a two-page, hand-written letter from a person I have never met. It began, "Congratulations you dumb [expletive] for thinking for one nano-second that 'Pure Michigan' is technically appropriate to market the state's so called positive business climate…" It went on with other insults and statements gleaned from talking points and media sound bites.

This is one example of many I could have chosen. It's convenient for us to call for "dialogue" and "broad and open discussion" on issues. As long as we resort to children's arguments, however, and refuse to do anything other than spout a party or special interest rant, those discussions can't and won't happen.

It should not surprise anyone, then, when elected bodies act quickly on major issues versus holding lengthy hearings. "Hearings" inevitably become polarized (sometimes violent) demonstrations and input is predictable along established ideological lines.

I may or may not agree with how every political race came out or how the issues were decided. Still, we need every woman and man elected to public office, from drain commissioner to president, to be great. We need the legislatures we have to work in the best interest of all of us and to be courageous – and successful – in allowing job creators to get this massive economy going again. And we need to celebrate when there is good news along the way.

As importantly, we need community and civic leaders that will provide well-reasoned, thoughtful input to the decision-making processes at every level. We need adversaries to treat each other, elected or not, with respect and a willingness to explore new avenues towards a redefined "success."

If any region in Michigan can lead the way, it is ours.

Doug Luciani is President and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.