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Tendency to use force is dangerous

It seems more than a thousand Ohio County parents are either public school officials or right-wing politicians. That’s how far the polarization has gone. What next? Do we start challenging each other to duels?

It just won’t do. If we keep pushing each other away, we as a people — not merely as individuals under a single federal government calling ourselves Americans — are in deep trouble.

We see it already in a few cities, where people on opposite poles politically and socially have turned to violence. They’re in the minority now. But what happens when more and more of us decide those with whom we disagree must be evil, not just wrong? Where do we go when more of us decide that if we can’t convince those who disagree to change, the next logical step is to force them to do so?

During last week’s Ohio County Board of Education meeting, much of the discussion was about having children in class four days a week.

At one point, a representative of the West Virginia Education Association said many school employees are worried about their health and that of their students. They also are concerned about how hard they are working in this COVID-19 world, he said.

More about that shortly. But here’s what the WVEA representative said: “Some school systems and right-wing politicians have decided to go against the workers and their safety concerns, and this is the result.”

Whoa. In June and early July, Ohio County Schools conducted an online survey of students’ parents. They were asked how many days they wanted children to attend school, once classes resumed on Sept. 8.

A total of 1,770 families responded. Sixty-one percent, or 1,086 of them, said they wanted in-person classes five days a week.

So these people are right-wing politicians or evil school officials?

Obviously, no. They are moms and dads who want only the best — in both education and health — for their children. They are aware of the risks to students and adults to whom the kids may transmit COVID-19.

But some people seem to think there are only two possible categories of people: Those concerned about children and those so evil they must be school bureaucrats or right-wing politicians.

Back to the WVEA fellow’s comments, for a moment. Understand this about teachers: Because they have to handle both students in class and a separate group studying remotely at home, they are working harder. Couple that with the day-by-day worry about exposure to the virus, and one can’t blame them for being a bit tense.

Let’s hope something can be done about that.

But demonizing those who want children in school five days a week will accomplish nothing. Neither will painting school employee union representatives as villains, for that matter. Rodney King (look him up) had it right: Why can’t we all just get along? It’s not a matter of giving in to those with whom we disagree. It’s about recognizing that either we agree to disagree and find compromises — or using force of various degrees to get our way.

Use of force begins socially, economically and politically. But invariably, it proceeds eventually to use of power physically.

COVID-19 isn’t the most dangerous epidemic we’re facing.

Mike Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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