Accusations should be backed with evidence
To the Editor:
In last week's letter to the editor, Ron Theriault said of me, "Jon Starr has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to Rumford politics."
Strong words! But, I wonder how Ron could know? Since he doesn't explain how in his letter, I can only assume that his opinion is somehow based on my last RFT letter, now three editions back. The interesting thing is that my letter did not contain any opinion on political issues whatsoever -- other than this simple credo: whenever we accuse people of specific wrongdoing -- especially in a public forum like the paper -- we should back it up with evidence. I also said that it's nice to think the best of people.
Not too controversial, right? Not so much a political stand, as common decency.
Unfortunately for me, Ron felt that letter gave him license to condemn my political knowledge. Why? I think it was because those accused people I mentioned (selectmen accused of taking bribes) are believed by some to be in cahoots with "anti-winders." That made Ron mad!
Claiming they drew first blood, Ron said that the anti-winders accused the pro-wind selectmen of taking bribes way before the pro-winders accused the anti-wind selectmen of taking bribes. He said Selectman Buccina was "crude enough" to have asked other selectmen if they had taken money on this issue. Then Ron himself was crude enough to ask Selectman Buccina if he had taken money on this issue!
Apparently, in Ron's world of playground politics, "they did it first!" is justification enough to engage in evidence-free, speculation-based accusations. But it shouldn't be. We should try our best to be fair and civil. We should stand firm and speak from the moral high ground, even when it seems that others are trying to drag us -- and the public discourse -- down.
Ron really needn't have started off his pro-wind letter by slamming me. I have come out as neither anti-wind nor pro-wind. Neither am I siding with any selectman regarding all this who's-bribing-who nonsense. Instead, and I am for finding out all we can about wind turbines and our alternatives before making a choice, and I am for everyone stopping the counterproductive chatter about bribery until they have some actual evidence.
If my own letter mentioned one accusation and missed another, it was only because one was in the paper I read, and the other was in a selectmen's meeting I could not attend.
So am I really that upset that Ron called me a political know-nothing? Not really. You see, I disagree with so very much of what Ron has to say about local politics that his condemnation offers me a certain degree of self-affirmation. Still, as much as I disagree with him, I would never make a blanket statement like "Ron Theriault has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to Rumford politics."
Sure, I like the feel of it! But I would never say it, as it is overly simplistic and extreme, and promotes a focus on personal attacks, rather than public issues. However, since he has offered that exact assessment of me, I will counter with my own, much less harsh, less unequivocal take on Ron's politics, which I have long believed, but never felt compelled to share until now: Ron's political perspective is far too often tainted by personal attacks, overheated speculation, misleading comments, and careless logical errors (such as the one which led him to denounce me).
I would encourage others to approach his take on any issue with a very healthy does of skepticism.
All this is not to say that I am without admiration for Ron! I admire his enthusiasm for local politics and his interest in civic affairs greatly, and wish more people possessed it; currently, however, my admiration stops there.