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Keep it civil

Local editorials

Open debate is the American way. Demonizing your opponents isn't

Sincere, committed people on both sides of the debate over war with Iraq hit the bricks of Vogel Plaza last week to express their opinions. We can't think of a better demonstration of American democracy in action.

We can't think of a better setting, either. Vogel Plaza is at the heart of downtown Medford, and events that take place there are visible to all.

Vogel Plaza really is Medford's town square, and we are glad to see people using it for a very public exchange of views on a topic of intense public interest.

Having said that, and acknowledging that intensity of opinion and conviction can lead to emotional reactions, we'd like to appeal to all involved to keep this civic debate civil. In our view, the Women in Black who gathered Wednesday and the folks dressed in white who responded in kind on Thursday have more in common than they might think.

The headline over the picture of the Women in Black on Thursday's front page read, A black-and-white issue?

The headline ended in a question mark. The answer to the question, we think, is a shade of gray.

No one wants to see American soldiers die. Not the Women in Black, and not Erlene Thomson, who started the white-clad demonstration by coming out alone to sit in the plaza. She stressed that she doesn't want a war any more than the peace demonstrators, but that she supports the president's policies.

We're troubled by the fact that Women in Black organizers have received threats, that they've been accused of not supporting American troops, and even of supporting Saddam Hussein.

Respectfully disagreeing with the government is the right of every American, and those who do ought to be able to express that disagreement without being demonized as un-American or anti-American. And certainly without fear for their personal safety.

If anything is un-American, it is labeling dissenters as less than patriotic.

We look forward to more peaceful exercises in free speech, in Vogel Plaza or elsewhere. We urge all involved, whatever their position, to show respect for those who disagree with them.

Don't split the vote

Two candidates for a seat on the Rogue Valley Transportation District board of directors would do well to agree between themselves on which will seek a seat on the board in the May 20 election.

Having two candidates with similar positions on the issues seek the same seat will do nothing but split the vote and potentially hand the seat to the incumbent, board chairwoman Eva Avery, who intends to run again.

Seeking Avery's position are Connie Skillman, who organized two unsuccessful recall campaigns against Avery and four other RVTD board members, and Douglas Hewett, who rides a bus to work daily at Bear Creek Corp. and supported the recall effort.

It would be smart if one of these two candidates dropped out of the race, giving the remaining candidate a better chance of defeating Avery, if that's their primary motivation.