In the current atmosphere, it is risky to take a stance on issues. Especially if it is counter to public opinion. Risk creates fear. Fear of offending the vocal minority. Fear causes self-censorship. We do not want to seem the bad guy so we tip-toe around controversial issues and guard our language to not offend.
Especially as a public organization. Public organizations strive to be politically neutral as much as possible because we represent a wide variety of people who hold all kinds of viewpoints, and we don’t want to misrepresent anyone, or leave anyone out.
So, we must decide where to stand on every issue. And in that decision, we must ask if it is better to express our opinion honestly, avoid controversy, or to not mention it at all. Usually, we choose to stay out of it and express no opinion. Or we use language that is as inoffensive as possible. We say, “We like tea, but we can see the merits of coffee and acknowledge that most people prefer it.” When what we really want to say is that we find coffee to be a bitter brew and we prefer the mellow, subtle flavor of a nice cup of tea.
But we fear the bad review, the nameless, faceless critics who can change public opinion with one sentence. We try to stay on the good side of that sentence. One bad review can color the opinions of every review after.
But is that really what our members want and need us to do? Should we not take a strong stance on issues? Shouldn’t we say yes, or no? Invite the controversy to start a discussion and solve the problem in a mutually beneficial way? Isn’t our responsibility to take a position that may be controversial if it is in the best interest of our members?
We should be meek and mild, not timid and weak. Meekness is strength controlled. To be mild is to remain calm and rational. So, we must stand firmly but politely, acknowledging that there may be some controversy, but willing to defend our position. The alternative is to live in fear and censor ourselves because we don’t want to offend. We must not be swayed by feelings, but by facts and rational discussion we may consider all sides and let that inform our position.
And if that stance should change after a healthy debate, it is our responsibility to communicate that change, listing out our reasonings to justify it.
Public organizations are under no obligation to public opinion, but we are obliged to the interests of our constituents. Our job as advocates demands that we stand for our members. If we come across something that impacts our community, it is our obligation to stand for or against it to best serve those that we serve.
So, you may hear some things from us that may run counter to public sentiment. If we do, we hold that position only after careful consideration and discussion with our stakeholders. If they like coffee, then the DBA will love coffee. (while sipping a nice cup of tea).