There is a letter to the editor in the Advertiser from Lawrence Uter using the mere existence of a "Digital Divide" committee as a reason to vote against LUS' fiber to the home plan. This letter reminds me that I'll have to get back to an abandoned post on the digital divide issue but what really struck me is that, as nearly as I can see, it isn't the actual proposals that offend the writer but what he thinks will "likely" happen in the future—bad things that "can't be far behind."
It's pretty typical of the opposition to the plan that it all comes down to fear and uncertainty about what the future might hold and doubt about our elected government. The continuing contrast is striking. Those for the plan tend to be positive about our future and confident that, especially on the local level, they can help shape the future. If local government does something they don't care for, they plan to work to change it and their involvement in this fight is an example of how they hope to do so. Enduring alliances are being built during the current fight that will be useful in other matters. People from every corner of the city, from every race and income level, from every political persuasion, are involved. They seem motivated by civic pride and the idea that they can make life better for everyone.
People who are against this project seem, to a man, fearful about the future, distrustful of even the level of government that is closest to the people, and doubtful—or even disdainful—of the idea that people can be motivated by anything other than fear and selfishness.
The contrast is so stark that it almost seems unfair to talk about it. But letters like this one, which don't have much left if you take out the fear of the future, make it hard to avoid at least thinking about it.
On one level it often seems that it's all about ideology...and, in fact, the opponents tend to try to make it so, calling their positions ones of conservative principle. The fact, pretty obviously, is that that can't be a very good explanation. Many of the most conservative people in town are fighting for the plan. The Republican Executive Committee has endorsed it. The Chamber of Commerce has endorsed it. Even the very conservative Homebuilders have endorsed it. These people are not, as opponents want to claim, abandoning their principles. But these people do have a positive view of the world and their capacity to change it. It is not, or is not simply, a matter of ideology.
The pattern I am beginning to see is more a matter of personality. Some people seem to come to us with an in-built fear of the future, a conviction that they cannot change that future, and a distrust of those around them. Some kinds of conservative ideologies, but not all, fit this way of seeing the world pretty well and fearful folks tend to trumpet those talking points. But it isn't, I suspect, really about that. It's about being fearful of a future that appears out of control.
And I'm not sure that any amount of good reasons or good reasoning can change that.