If you were ready to take a break from divisive local politics, ummm...sorry about that.

Kristin Brighton, a Manhattan school board member, decided Wednesday night to bring up the high school mascot issue again. She wants to get rid of the Indian mascot, saying whatever the new mascot is shouldn’t be a human. She said she wants the existing board — including two lame-duck members — to vote to change it before the just-elected board members take their seats.

Well. First let me say that I have a great deal of respect for Ms. Brighton as a local leader, and I thank her for her public service.

However, I disagree with her position on this issue, which I’m sure she already knows. And I disagree with her logic about bringing the issue up right now. She contends that a vote to change the mascot will “settle the issue once and for all,” and that somehow the length of time that a discussion of the issue has gone on is an argument in favor of one answer rather than the other.

I strongly doubt that a vote to get rid of the mascot would settle anything. And the length? Well, just imagine that the issue is, say, abortion. If we “settled the issue once and for all” by making abortion legal, did that end the debate? On the flip side, is the length of time that Roe has been debated an argument for outlawing abortion?

Nope. The argument will just go on. The only thing that ends arguments is when people change their minds through logic, persuasion and shifts in feelings. It comes down to the merits of the argument.

But what’s done is done — Ms. Brighton opened the door, and so we’re going to have to all go through this again right now. Should make for entertaining Thanksgiving dinners.

I’d like to offer some ground rules for the debate that’s about to occur. Follow them, and we’ll make it through. Ignore them, and the divide that you saw in the election will be child’s play. Positions will harden, the reaction will get more strident and then the 2023 elections will involve pitchforks and bullhorns.

Rule 1. No name-calling. Nobody on one side is a racist or a Nazi. Nobody is a socialist. Let’s set aside the term “cancel culture.” Name-calling never persuaded anybody, anyway.

Rule 2. No questioning motives. The pro-mascot people are not trying to objectify Natives, and they’re not motivated by a desire to return to the 1950s. The anti-mascot people are not motivated by dopey idealism, or limousine-liberal guilt, or by a lust for power.

Rule 3. Assume the best of each other. This is really the converse of Rule 2. Assume that a person on the other side of the issue is acting out of conscience, a sense of what’s right, and a belief that it is best for the community and our young people. I think Ms. Brighton’s move to have the board vote now is tactical, because she knows that a 4-3 vote to change the mascot will become a 4-3 vote to keep it in January. But I also believe she truly believes she is doing what is right.

Rule 4. Nobody is more or less qualified to speak. The fact that somebody is an American Indian or not is irrelevant. A white person is not, by definition, disqualified. A person’s opinion is a person’s opinion, whatever his skin color or bloodline. Is that opinion valid? Of course. Is that opinion persuasive? That’s entirely unrelated.

Rule 5. As an offshoot of #4, can we do our best to set aside “feelings”? If we as a society are to operate by the standard that anyone being offended by something is grounds to get rid of it, then we will have no rules at all. If somebody says they feel objectified, then they do feel that way, and they have a right to feel that way. But that’s not really relevant. Crying and/or yelling do not make arguments more persuasive.

Rule 6. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth. Go out of your way to hear — to really understand — the position of people on the other side. Try to repeat that argument in your own words, without simply prepping your counter-argument. As a buddy of mine says, the key to our entire political future in the country is to seek first to understand, and only then to be understood.

Rule 7. Remember that kids are watching. This issue directly involves 14- to 18-year-olds. They probably tuned out debates about phantom “critical race theory,” and they will immediately fall asleep if you utter the words “funding formula.” But here we’re talking about what goes on their basketball uniforms.

Remember that you are not teaching the kids in our community how to win a crusade. You are modeling the respect with which you want their future political opponents to treat them. Because, as you know, this debate will still be going when they’re in charge.

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