Our View

Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley has sage advice for us all:

"Seek to understand. Judge less."

This year will be remembered for a lot of things: a divisive election, racial tension and demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, and of course COVID-19 and debates about our rights and our responsibilities.

It will also be remembered as the year of incendiary rhetoric — a year during which Americans found it tough to talk to one another, tough to listen to one another.

As we leave the worst of this year behind us, the vilifying, the insults, the scorn and derision that seemed to escalate in 2020 should be left behind too.

Asked what he sees as the biggest challenges of 2020, Stanley cited the pandemic, of course, but also the way we have conducted ourselves: "There were many things we could not control or predict, but we can always control how we conduct ourselves. ... 2020 has been fraught with less civilized interactions. As we interact less face to face and move to more virtual communication, many lines have been drawn over face masks, virus danger, governmental response, politics in general and many more. The operative word that comes to my mind is 'condemnation.' I have many friends on both sides of any line that are good thinkers with genuine hearts. Our capacity to listen and appreciate differing views has eroded. Social media has escalated that erosion. Our country is founded on the free exchange of ideas and healthy discourse. We all need to reaffirm our commitment to those tenants of a free intellectual and loving society."

He offers a lot to think about — a reminder that both sides have the right to the heard and the responsibility to listen.

And he reminds us, too, that we have more in common than we do that divides us.

The mayor contrasted the unity this town experienced after the 2011 tornado with the divisions today, and in doing so, we should note the day will come when we will need each other again.

The mayor offers good words to help the community begin 2021:

"Seek to understand. Judge less."

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