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Using Easter to Explain Contradictions in Commentary Writing

No day offers a better chance for self-reflection on our own shortcomings than Easter. My flaws are many, my sins great and I will recognize the logs in my own eye by the end of the column, but let’s focus first on the proverbial specks in the eyes of others.

This is not in the spirit of criticism or sensationalism but rather to seek greater understanding through a competition of ideas in the public sphere - something that benefits a civil society.

The most recent Just Wright Citrus piece, which was published Thursday, looked at emails to commissioners.

The topic was the extension of the Suncoast Parkway through Sugar Mill Woods and the noise pollution it has caused since opening.

The only citizen email quoted said in part, “I went to the community meetings before the road construction began to voice my concerns but no one seemed to care. Now that the road is complete, I would like to invite those very same people to my house and experience what they said would not be an issue.”

I’m not indifferent to this problem, and as someone who lives on the outer edges of Pine Ridge near the Norvell Bryant entrance, I certainly share some similar concerns.

As a professor, though, I see this email from a different perspective. Faculty evaluations will be sent to students soon. Only about two or three students will return these when made voluntary but without incentive such as in the scenario that writing into your elected officials would be.

Every university I’ve taught at has taken these evaluations seriously but with the knowledge that the type of student to write in a complaint could have motivation beyond a truly troublesome experience. A couple of bad evaluations could be the product of students' negative response to difficult grading as much as it could be a clear sign of trouble in the classroom.

Emails to the commission, particularly those from Sugar Mill where neighborhoods within the community have had a rocky relationship with the board lately, should raise awareness but not immediate concern without further evaluation.

The Just Wright Citrus piece instead felt the couple of emails were conclusive evidence of a problem, “this drives me crazy. Citizens warn the government of a potential negative impact, the thing they want done isn’t done, and — shocking! — the negative impact occurs.”

Let’s wait to hear from a few others before we go pointing fingers. To put this in the context of Good Friday and Easter, even Jesus had his final words on the cross chronicled by four different disciples. Mark, Matthew, John and Luke all work together to give us a beautiful picture of lessons that also apply to this situation.

Take the First of Seven Words for example, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

A blog that often derides others for being part of a “gotchya gang” is then first in line to do the same; blaming government for making a terrible mistake based off little, unsubstantiated evidence. This astounding lack of self-awareness would be intolerable if not for two things.

The first is in line with the First Word, “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Consistency suffers in commentary as the nature of strong opinions means backtracking or outright contradiction over time may be unavoidable, if noticed at all.

The Chronicle demonstrated this through endorsing Chuck Kanhel in the 2016 sheriff election primary because Mike Prendergast was too much of a county outsider only to then endorse a county outsider in 2020 who had lived in Citrus for less time than Prendergast had in 2016.

The second reason that we must learn to live with hypocrisy is because we are all guilty of it. As mentioned before from a different Biblical lesson, it is easy to spot the speck but not to admit the log in your own eye. I often have a redwood trunk in mine.

When JJ Grow funded his own election with $100,000, I decried it as buying a seat. However, when Rep. Ralph Massullo put 15 times that into his state senate race, I hailed it as a great sign of how seriously he was taking what would have been a competitive election. I am just as guilty of this as anyone.

Self-awareness may be salvation in commentary writing, but if we are unwilling or unable to practice it, then the least we can do is hold each other accountable.

Happy Easter, everyone. He is Risen.


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