However you voted on Measure M, there is reason to rejoice in the decision made by Arcata voters.
It was a clear decision, with an overwhelming mandate to act. It wasn’t at all close, so there is no disputing that the voters spoke loud, clear and decisively, ending a long-running controversy that sowed pain and division in our town.
It might be wise to look back on the run-up to the election and see what we can learn from it.
One lesson is that democracy works. As we previously editorialized, a decision of this historical magnitude was one for the people, not politicians, to decide.
The initiative process offered redress, and was pursued with admirable vigor – despite the verbal harassment and denigration its sponsors unjustly endured (ironically, in the name of democracy).
So effective was their petition drive that they gathered nearly as many signatures for Measure M as the final pro-statue vote.
It turns out that the petition backers were the statue opponents’ best allies. Without Measure M, we’d never have known what citizens truly want. There would always have been a question as to whether the council’s peremptory decision reflected the will of the people. Now we know that it certainly, overwhelmingly does.
We also know, despite some statue opponents claims to the contrary, that the people of Arcata are fair-minded enough to make an objective decision not based on simple tradition, or white privilege, or outright racism.
When objections to the Jacoby Building plaque were voiced – boom, it was gone. When offered a chance to decide the statue issue, it was voted off the Plaza. And with the passage of Measure K, greater Humboldt has voted to become a Sanctuary County.
With hate crimes, including racial assaults rising nationwide, our ire and activism might better be directed toward the national leaders who are stoking it. They love it when we squabble among ourselves, and when we do so, we're playing their game.
Speaking of racism, white supremacy and the other terms that were so recklessly thrown around during the campaign, did any of that name-calling influence your vote? Did you vote one way or another because someone called someone else a terrible name?
Didn’t think so. So maybe tactics like that aren’t helpful to the dialogue. The fact is, there are committed racists and white supremacists, and they aren’t the fair-minded people of Arcata.
Devaluing those grave terms with unfounded accusations doesn’t help us deal with the actual, practicing bigots of our land who are presently emboldened by our president’s dogwhistle calls for “nationalism.”
Now, Arcata can ease into the era of unity and healing promised by the statue opponents. Along with that, rather than play the president’s game of emphasizing divisions, let’s take a deep breath and act rather than react: let’s find the abundant common ground and shared values we all hold, and work outward from there.