Okay, Pat Rice. I’m your huckleberry. . .
Each week, editor Pat Rice runs a regular column in The Daytona Beach News-Journal – and it’s normally the first thing I turn to in Sunday’s paper – because, as our local newspaper rapidly transmogrifies into a homogenized regional rag – I find it’s one of the few community-centric voices left.
Only after digesting Mr. Rice’s commentary do I turn to editorials from The Gainesville Sun or The Sarasota Herald-Tribune which regularly comprise the “Our View” column. . .
This week, in a piece entitled “Let’s get people back to work in Volusia-Flagler. Safely.” Pat began a cogent discussion on the processes and know-how required to get the tens of thousands of area workers and businesses adversely affected by the state’s coronavirus response back to work – with an eye to maintaining best practices that will keep us all safe.
After admitting that journalists don’t have the “expertise to gauge when or how to re-open a society in the midst of a pandemic,” (he forgot to mention that, in the lead up, media became amateur epidemiologists to drive fear and panic with 24/7 gloom and doom) – Pat also claimed that most government officials don’t “have the expertise to decide when it’s safe to get commerce and society up and running again,” either.
Then, things turned dark. . .
“I disagree with certain social media pundits who have taken pleasure in skewering county, city, school and hospital officials for decisions they’ve made during this pandemic. Our local elected and appointed officials have largely made sound decisions during this once-in-a-lifetime disaster.”
Since Barker’s View is the only alternative political opinion site that has taken decision-makers from “county, city, schools and hospitals” to the woodshed for the shit show that passes for their collective response to this crisis, I’m going to count myself as one of those giddy “social media pundits” Mr. Rice openly disparages in his obsequious pat-on-the-back to his friends in government.
First of all – I take no “pleasure” in any of this.
No sane person who has experienced this failure of leadership does – and even the suggestion is offensive, divisive and accomplishes everything Mr. Rice claims to abhor about the state of our civic discussion.
In fact, I want to bawl my eyes out in abject frustration at the ham-handed non-response of those in government who have made a mockery of our incident management system, worked opportunistically to further their political aspirations during a crisis, failed to establish an effective public communication campaign and engaged in formulating overreaching rules and crude diktats that change hourly.
Hell, most people serving in government who still have a working conscience will tell you they got it wrong.
Clearly, they were caught out by a failure to plan or prepare for the very real threat of a pandemic – and most thinking people are having a hard time discerning these “sound decisions” Mr. Rice claims our local elected and appointed officials have made during this evolving economic disaster.
For the uninitiated, Mr. Rice and I work different sides of the same street.
He’s a professional journalist and recognized community leader who makes a living charging for his news and opinion.
Conversely, I’m a dilettante blogger, a half-drunk blowhard with internet access – a retired career bureaucrat who broke the Magicians Code – and now opines on the news and newsmakers of the day here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.
I would never presume to accept advertising dollars or subscriptions for these long-winded screeds, one man’s twisted opinions, which are neither always right nor always wrong.
Unfortunately, in my view, this weird yin-yang relationship – this cosmic editorial duality – became necessary when our newspaper of record slowly developed an all-to-cozy Country Club relationship with our elected officials and the uber-wealthy oligarchs who control them like cheap marionettes.
A civic atmosphere in which the editor feels comfortable publicly shitting on the views of those who use social media for what it is – an equal opportunity soapbox for the every-man – while fawning over the gross dysfunction and ineptitude that has been so painfully exposed during this “public health” crisis.
After admitting he’s no expert – Mr. Rice prattled on, lecturing us about what is “needed,” (social distancing and “obsessive hand washing”) before issuing a decree that large gatherings “like Bike Week, motor racing, and high school football games, and most likely traditional classrooms,” shouldn’t occur “anytime soon.”
Then, he concluded with the obvious:
“Let’s make decisions like lives depend on it. Because they do.”
In my view, what Mr. Rice fails to understand is that these life-and-death decisions will ultimately be made by his friends in government – you know, the same ones who refuse to so-much as return the phone calls of his reporters – and whose “sound decisions” have destroyed public confidence in the very institutions we should look to during times of crisis.
And no one takes pleasure in that. . .