My Turn

A fresh perspective: 'Where has common decency gone?'

Video by Cody Hooks

If you had attended the Governor's forum on Tuesday (April 18) hoping to hear Governor Martinez speak on her series of vetoes, our state budget, and the steps forward, we are sad to say you would have been disappointed. Instead, only inflammatory rhetoric filled the air. There was no talk of our tax code or revenues, only slurs such as "liar" and "disgrace." For our introduction into the realm of politics and government process, we were shocked by the egregious display of obstructionist behavior displayed by our community. When we had first arrived, the community greeted us enthusiastically saying, "it's great to see youth getting involved in government." We were excited to share our viewpoints and perspective on the issues as well as ask the governor about where the state is going. But instead, we were barred from doing exactly what the community encouraged us to do...get involved.

When we first heard about the governor's visit, the three of us were excited at the opportunity for different reasons. Despite our close friendship, we each vary in our political ideologies and exposure. We ventured to see the governor so that we may expose ourselves to government work and fulfill our civic duties of being concerned and informed citizens. As Governor Martinez began to speak on the events that occurred during the Regular Session, many of the other community members in attendance - who can be more accurately described as protesters - hijacked the forum, destroying any potential for constructive dialogue. That is not to say that there were not some attendees, who like ourselves, were genuinely interested in what the governor had to say. Their presence, however, was overshadowed by the blatant lack of common decency by the "Susana protestors." It was saddening and disheartening to see a community that prides itself as being accepting to all, viciously attack a fellow New Mexican. The three of us had many questions, relating to schools, higher education, and the tax code. However, due to petty obstructionist behavior, the event was shut down. This impacted the three of us in different ways, and we would like to take this opportunity to articulate to the community our perspectives:

(Roberto) I was excited to attend my first political event and had questions I was interested in asking the governor about lack of textbooks. When we first arrived, the environment was very welcoming. However, my first impressions were contradicted when hecklers began obstructing the event. I was unable to ask my questions because the event was cut short due to the display. I was shocked how the people of our community acted. It was a relief to see not everybody was disrespectful. Several people were respectful to the governor and had a decent conversation with her, even when they disagreed. I believe it is time to take a step back and look at ourselves. Instead of being unwilling to come together and work out differences, we should be able to treat each other like decent human beings and create a dialogue. After the event on Tuesday I have acquired new perspective on our community.

(Gilbert) For a student like myself, who is ignorant of politics and government issues, I was interested in making the trip. Unlike my friends, I have no real opinion on the governor and was interested in making one. Upon arrival, we discussed our viewpoints and planned our questions for the governor enthusiastically. But our enthusiasm was squandered by the uncivil discourse. For someone like myself, genuinely interested in forming an opinion of a controversial figure, I was let down. Instead of acquiring a new perspective on our governor, I acquired a new perspective on our community. And unfortunately, I was disappointed.

(James) I was born and raised here in Taos and have always been proud to be part of a community that is accepting to all. However, Tuesday's events only proved otherwise. It makes me ask the question, "what has happened to civil discourse, where has common decency gone?" Over the course of this last year, we have taken on a nihilist approach to our interactions with each other. We have lost all faith in the possibility of finding common ground that we are unwilling to even listen. We approach each other with the possibility of compromise out of sight. The governor, just like everyone one of us, has a set a beliefs and values. Values that she was elected by a majority of New Mexicans to carry out. Whether you support Governor Martinez or not, we owe her the common decency of listening.

James Valerio, Gilbert Valerio and Roberto Martinez are Taos High School students.