Over the last week, I have had several people ask me if I was happy that I no longer served on the City Council. After an initial chuckle, my response often centered around the empathy that I felt for the current councilors. The weight of the decisions they are being asked to make takes a toll and is emotionally draining. Unlike many of us, they do not have the luxury of making these decisions in a vacuum or viewing the community through one singular lens. Very few know what it is like unless you live a night in their shoes and I want to thank each of them for their service.
Although I am no longer on City Council, I did watch Wednesday’s meeting. I have to say that I was impressed by the level of engagement but quite disappointed in the dialogue. I love that we live in a democracy that is built around free speech. I hold true the fact that just because two people disagree, does not mean one is right and one is wrong. I am one who believes that conversation and a sharing of ideas, especially in times of disagreement, help us arrive in a better place. It is called controversy with civility.
What I witnessed on Wednesday night did not feel anything like that. It felt like a political rally. It felt like many people were not there to have a conversation, they were not there to listen. They were simply there to rally around a singular cause, place blame and even make a few threats.
So often we heard that this is an SDSU problem and SDSU students are the reason our COVID numbers are going up. One person even suggested that we send the students back home. What? Is this Brookings? It is not the Brookings I am proud to call home. In Brookings we have always welcomed others into our community, we have acknowledged and appreciated the fact that we are home to the State’s only land-grant university, and we have recognized that when SDSU is thriving, our community is thriving.
COVID is not just an SDSU issue. It is not confined to the campus and while it is easy to place blame on SDSU students and the choices they make as the reason our case numbers are rising, the truth is we have seen a rise in cases throughout the community, in all age groups. COVID is also not just a K-12 issue, City Council issue, economic issue, or even just a public health issue. COVID is all those things and more. We as a community need to take steps to slow the spread. Instead of letting COVID divide us. We need to help one another, support local businesses, and thank those on the front lines. Most importantly, we need to respect all members of our community, even if they view the current situation through a different lens than we do.