Broad shoulders are necessary in the political realm. The same is true in the public eye whether you are a politician, athlete, actor, musician, or as in my case, a media personality. Unlike the other categories, politicians and those in media, especially opinion media, are expected to be out front with their ideas and opinions. It goes with the territory.
When you put yourself out there, and it is a choice to do so, disagreement and the criticism that go with it are to be expected. Your words and actions will be scrutinized and evaluated; and in a free speech society, in any society, that is how it should be.
For nearly 20 years, all but just shy of two of them in Brevard, that has been my job. I have been right and I have been wrong. I have been vocal, even bombastic at times. I have interviewed and argued with candidates and elected officials. I’ve done the same with callers and media members. I have been open about friendships and those relationships that didn’t reach that level. I have acknowledged bias because that bias is part of me, it’s who I am.
Through it all I have always been that- who I am. I knew going into this career that not everyone would like who I am or what I would have to say. Only a fool would think otherwise.
In those with whom I have interacted through the years I have seen examples of ineptitude and great professionalism. Neither was always from those with whom I agreed or supported. In fact, one of the best examples comes from a politician that I have often criticized and rarely supported, Representative Thad Altman.
Early in my career, inspired by ESPN’s Chris Berman I suppose, political figures earned nicknames on Bill Mick LIVE. Representative Altman was dubbed “Thad the Impaler” for his stance on taxes with which I disagreed. While some would have taken offense, Altman handled himself and our subsequent interactions professionally. We still disagree, but when we meet the conversation centers on family and our mutual love of baseball. When the conversation turns to political issues, as in his recent campaign appearance on the show, it remains professional.
And that’s the thing, while people make up the political realm, politics is about issues and ideas. We are going to differ, but it’s not personal. We can disagree and still be civil to one another. We can discuss differences without animosity. At least the mature ones can.
And then we have what’s happened over the last couple of years. New and even some more experienced folks have drifted into politics without the benefit of mentorship, or deciding that mentorship was not valuable or unnecessary, failing to learn that politics is first and foremost about service. Some have also failed to realize that it’s about relationships and working together for the common good.
That has resulted in the mentality that we’ll call: Burn Down the Barn to Exterminate the Rats. While the rat problem appears to go away, the barn is so damaged it is no longer serviceable.
We see this in candidates, elected officials and in those involved in campaigns. When there is disagreement, professionalism goes out the window. At times, so does the constitution.
I’ll advocate for the First Amendment for even those who disagree with or even disparage me. Yes, it’s happening. Where the line is drawn is when elected officials subvert the truth and then attempt to subvert the First Amendment on top of it.
While one former candidate has untruthfully characterized my words and actions during this election season, it is his opinion and he’s entitled to it. He’s entitled to it even though it is inaccurate.
When another, also a candidate and an elected official, sends emissaries to me threatening me with being sued into the poor house should criticism of his actions continue, a very distinct line has been crossed. It’s said he’s even hired private investigators to dig into my background for potential ammunition in this battle against my opinions. He isn’t the first. He’s likely not the last. Political speech, his and mine, is the most protected of speech, or it should be. That he would go to such lengths to limit mine is far more telling about him than it is about me.
He will do what he will regardless of my words or actions. I will do my job with the same commitment to being open and honest with my perspective on the issues. But you have to wonder if an elected official, or someone who would like to be one, is willing to go to those lengths to silence dissent, just how far is such a person willing to go?
I suppose some people just don’t have the shoulders to handle life in the fishbowl of the public eye.