Many of us are guilty of losing our temper during political arguments.

We can turn from high-minded debate to personal attacks without noticing.

Unfortunately, this is also true within local politics, a place where there should be some sense of decorum even among political rivals.

Recent discussions in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes have devolved into vulgar language that serves no purpose other than enflaming passions that are already counterproductive to useful discourse.

In Lafourche Parish, a councilman used a recent public meeting to play an audiotape that contained foul language in an attempt to implicate the parish president in wrongdoing.

The councilman said he had given the tape to law enforcement authorities, so it is difficult to imagine a legitimate public purpose in playing the tape other than to embarrass the parish president. It is much better to let the authorities investigate and take action if they feel it is warranted. Playing the tape in public seems to play to a prurient interest rather than any real public interest.

In Terrebonne Parish, a post-council meeting discussion in the parking lot turned into a shouting match that also included abusive language.

It is easy to understand that various personalities and interests in local politics will sometimes lead to conflict. But those who wish to serve the public will strive to rise above the petty, personal strife that can leak into public discourse. Instead, they must focus on finding common ground and should always remember that they serve the public, not themselves.

There might be real issues underlying all of these recent incidents. If so, it is even more important that these politicians try to behave civilly toward one another and toward members of the public.

There will always be differences of opinion about how best to accomplish the public’s business. But when these discussions become heated and personal, they are unlikely to result in anything but hurt feelings and animosity.

It is easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize public servants who take these discussions personally. And it is difficult to hear public, personal attacks without responding in kind.

But that is exactly what is required of public servants who hope to accomplish positive change. They cannot afford to become entangled in shouting matches and vulgarities. They must try to rise above it so they can do the good they were elected to achieve.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.