Our view: An election with insults as the issue

When it seemed impossible for the 2017 municipal election for Laurinburg City Council to go any lower, it did.

In a Facebook post last week, Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Block appears to urge people to assault someone he considers a political opponent.

“If anyone sees Frances Willis on the street, you have my permission to spit in her face,” Block wrote.

We won’t try to unravel the reason behind the mayor wanting others to spit in the face of a Laurinburg business owner and constituent. There can be no justification for such an act.

Thankfully, Block has since reworked the offensive post.

If the mayor’s words were an isolated incident, it might be chalked up to a fit of anger at the end of a arduous campaign. But this kind of craziness has become the norm.

In the same post, Block and those that agree with him, insulted several people by name — calling them “hypocritical hags,”

“disgusting, classless, bottom dwellers” whose good works in the community are “venal and vulgar.”

Block is not alone in the name calling. The good doctor is just patient zero in the verbal arms race were one insult begets another.

Many of those opposed to the mayor and his followers have struck back calling him an “evil narcissist” and his supporters “pathetic followers of a crooked man” or mindless “minions.”

Where does it stop?

We hope next week’s election will bring this unseemly chapter in Laurinburg’s history to an end. But it is hard to see how it can. Too many people have insulted their fellow citizens. Too many incendiary and unsubstantiated claims have been made. And far too many consider the constant bickering on social media a badge of honor.

There is no honor in it.

When did reasonable people forget how to disagree civilly on public policies? When did divergent views on how best to lead Laurinburg become an invitation to demean or denigrate?

There is nothing wrong with people questioning the actions or records of elected officials or those seeking office. That is both the right and responsibility of citizens in a free country.

But to suggest without proof that someone is a liar, thief — or something much worse — is wrong.

Please refrain from telling us that the only way bring important issues to light is through personal attacks and insults. We don’t buy it. Public debate cannot be improved by making it courser.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake recently talked about the corrosive atmosphere in Washington, but his words just as easily apply to our own small city:

“The flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve. … They are not normal,” Flake said. “Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.”

Or as one resident posted more succinctly on social media: We all need to stop acting like children.

Laurinburg knows better. We need to do better.