The extreme political actors have had a grand time in 2020, as was evident in the bitter partisanship that populated every thread of the fabric of the U.S. political landscape during the election cycle. Now, those who wish to name-call, spread misinformation and be offended to be offended have hijacked a group intent on fostering discussion on local political issues in Maryville and Nodaway County.
The Maryville and Nodaway County Resident Council was created on Facebook to discuss issues citizens had with the Maryville City Council. It is perfectly valid to debate issues of local government and to disagree with those making the decisions. Representative democracy rather than direct democracy means that some people are inevitably going to be unhappy with those leading because they don’t feel represented.
Almost immediately, the group was besieged by those looking for a platform to spew misinformation and hatred, mainly regarding COVID-19. Small business issues and discussions of the infamous water quality from Mozingo were thrown to the wayside so those who still believe the coronavirus is a hoax or not dangerous can spread their message.
For the umpteenth time, COVID-19 is not the flu. It is deadlier, genetically different and spreads more easily. We haven’t had decades to develop medicines and regular vaccinations to stop the coronavirus like we have the flu. Even with the countless mitigation measures we have put in place, like social distancing, mask-wearing and quarantining after exposure -- none of which we do for the flu -- this virus has killed more people since March than the flu has in the past five flu seasons.
At this point, there is no excuse for ignorance in this area. Every person has been bombarded with this information and has had equal opportunity to listen to science rather than what they want to be true. The same goes for masks.
Of course, many of those boldest in their ignorance have decided to attack the City Council because of the mask mandate in this group. It’s important to note that this mandate has not had a citation written for it yet. It’s more important to note that mask mandates work in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping others safe.
These fringe COVID-19 truthers don’t care about that though. They have created some sort of delusional fantasy that likens the Maryville City Council to the tyrant King George and themselves to the brave American revolutionaries.
They are willing to fight and die on this hill of personal freedom over not wearing a mask because it is “government overreach.” They have no qualms with the “government overreach” that required them to obtain a driver’s license, follow traffic laws and wear clothes in public, but a piece of cloth on their face that could save others’ lives: that’s where they draw the line.
Other members of the group tried to distract or confront the rambunctious few. They attempted to show them scientific facts or steer the conversation to another topic, but inevitably it would always come back to the mask and the overreach of the City Council and other local officials.
The next logical — or rather illogical — step in the implosion was to begin the name-calling. Maryville City Manager Greg McDanel and Councilman Tye Parsons were the most frequent targets of childish insults; many called for their removal from office or worse. The best way to be listened to and taken seriously by a public official is to hurl barbs at them on social media. Surely, they will be more likely to cave to the ludicrous demands if you call them a string of expletives in a Facebook post devoid of grammar or coherency.
Again some tried to steer the group in another direction, but the engagement emboldened many of the trolls to keep going. Some members even brought up that City Council elections took place this summer and along with a low turnout, both candidates ran unopposed. That’s the real issue that will of course be lost in the shuffle. It is hard to have elected officials that represent the goals of the citizenry if no one votes or is willing to run against those they disagree with.
The group has now become a metaphor for the public debacle of the pandemic as a whole. The acts of a few will damage the goals of the many; in the case of the coronavirus, it is those that spread lies about the virus and refuse to wear a mask. In the case of the Maryville and Nodaway County Resident council, it is those likely same individuals who have decided to spread their diseased and warped facts and ideals on an open platform.
It is perfectly valid for residents of this city and county to believe the local government has dragged its feet in the water quality department, that the City Council isn’t doing enough to protect small businesses or that the road infrastructure in Maryville is horrendous and needs more attention. The group was created with good intentions, but it quickly morphed into a representation of the very worst of local politics and it’s a shame. Hopefully, those with common decency will be able to turn the ship around, but given current evidence, there isn’t much reason for optimism.