Recent Mining Comments Show Failure to Understand Each Other

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Addison Scufsa

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In a recent New York Times article by Reid Forgrave, Becky Rom, leader of Save the Boundary Waters, was quoted as saying, “Danny Forsman drives to the mine in his truck, comes home and watches TV, and he doesn’t know this world exists,” and her husband Reid Carron said, “They want somebody to just give them a job so they can all drink beer with their buddies and go four-wheeling and snowmobiling with their buddies, not have to think about anything except punching a clock.”

Both of these comments are seriously ignorant of the other side and are insensitive to miners in the Iron Range. But in today’s political climate, they aren’t surprising.

The mining debate in the Iron Range is an intense, local issue. This means most people on opposing sides know each other, making the language used by Becky and Reid so shocking. When a debate like immigration or abortion is a national issue, it is easy to ignore the personal effects on someone you know. But when you harshly criticize a neighbor or friend, it makes the comments that much more personal and hurtful.

Republicans and Democrats have picked up more offensive language and increasingly divisive rhetoric since the last election cycle. Both sides have retreated into two distinct camps, rarely coming out to meet each other in the middle. This lack of communication with the opposing side means hearing the same ideas over and over again, with harsher language seeing more applause. If Becky and Reid say this to the New York Times, what do they say to other members of the Save the Boundary Waters in private?

The reasons for ignoring the other side are clear and ignorant. People see the other side and their ideas as morally wrong or unworthy of consideration. Others see opponents as idiots who don’t understand the true way of doing things. Both of these assumptions harm relationships and thoughtful discussion of controversial topics.

Instead of making vast generalizations of the other side, people should attempt to focus on the issue, not the person. This is easier said than done but is necessary to get better policy and relationships in our communities. Both Republicans and Democrats have good ideas to offer, they just need to help each other flesh them out, not shut them down. When Democrats have concerns over gun control or Republicans have concerns about immigration, listening to their concerns and ideas will help provide good policy. Same goes for the mining debate. Maybe Becky and Reid should listen to the reasons miners enjoy working in the mines and want to continue to do so before saying they are lazy and ignorant of the world.

In order to fix these issues, we need to listen and understand the other side. Next time you are debating another person who sees immigration different than you, listen to their ideas and attempt to understand their views. Just taking the time to listen to them builds a healthier relationship and makes it much more likely to debate the issue, not the person. Even more important than listening is staying respectful. Don’t insult opponents, cuss them out or claim they are racists or snowflakes. There is no quicker way to shut down a conversation than to call someone a racist or xenophobe.

While Becky Rom can’t take back her comments, she can certainly learn from this experience. She and her husband have since apologized and have called their statements “disrespectful”. Going forward, both sides should seek to understand the concerns of the other and respectfully find a solution that works for every Iron Ranger.