Opinion: What will they think?


Grandmother always reminded us to keep our business to ourselves. Don’t air our soiled skivvies for all to see. And most of all, behave like the neighbors are watching. Perhaps we might think the constraint a bit too harsh for our modern lives. But, it did tend to emphasize the rightful difference between the public forum and a private life. We learned, rather clumsily at times, how to negotiate what is correct to discuss at the dinner table and yet not suitable for the same table in a neighborhood restaurant. 

Come now this time of social media and the instant news cycle to make identifying this imagined line even a much greater challenge. The quaint, if not a bit prudish, admonishment to behave well in public seems decidedly on its way out. Still, are we better situated because of it? Certainly, transparency is good. Yet, off-handed comments are recorded, clipped and used in all manner of unintended ways. Challenging our suppositions in the company of others is imperative to human flourishing. So, if we edit ourselves so that there is no private space, where do we think and explore our notions? 

A nearby large city council has been in the news of late. It seems that there are some leadership struggles. Moreover, a pair of its members have been accused of heinous predatory acts against children. We should know about these machinations and take great care in dispensing with them. But even as central Indiana joins in pursuit of an Amazon headquarters investment, what message are we sending? Is this healthy political discord or is it too much dirty laundry? Can we find a way to fight our battles without vilifying each other? Or is honesty, even bleak and unpleasant, always the best policy?  What do the neighbors think? And, should we care?