BRANDON FOUNTAIN: Three simple rules

Ever since my now-teenaged daughter could count her age on one hand, she had three rules.

The very first and most important rule: Listen.

Rule No. 2: Respect yourself and others.

The final rule: No throwing fits or whining.

The rules covered just about everything and worked for her as she was learning more about the world around her. Of course, there were times she found herself on the wrong side of the rules. She was appropriately corrected and reminded the importance of those rules. These days, there aren’t too many instances where she needs a reminder.

A decade ago, I believed the three rules were infallible. The first rule was my favorite rule. It’s specifically designed to be a catch-all, as I firmly believe someone who values listening to those around them is adept at making better decisions based on all the facts, rather than emotion.

However, after Wednesday night, I realized my rules mean absolute squat.

After months of demanding the state to have several public hearings around Michigan so people were able to express their opinions about Nestlé Waters North America’s permit application to increase its withdrawal pumping capacity at the White Springs production well in Osceola Township, water conservation groups, activists and residents received what they had asked for.

More than 400 people from around the state descended upon the campus of Ferris State University on Wednesday for the long-awaited public hearing hosted by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials.

It was nothing short of a farce — a disgraceful display of mob mentality.

It’s unfortunate we live in a society where people believe if their voices are louder or carry farther than those they disagree with they win the discussion or debate. It’s a convoluted thought process.

Wednesday reaffirmed that reality.

From the outset, MDEQ moderators set forth rules for civility, providing a three-minute window to anyone who wished to be heard. The rules moderators set forth were pretty simple: There was to be no clapping, cheering or yelling. They encouraged respect and civility to all those who spoke.

Those must not have been real rules though, because several in the audience didn’t follow them and the moderators did very little to enforce them.

Impassioned, heartfelt comments by audience members against the permit application were greeted with whooping, cheering, applause and, at some points, crowd chanting, high-fives, hugs and praise.

The moderators just sat and watched.

Moments later, suspiciously juvenile “coughing,” crunching of water bottles, bantering, moans and groans filled the room when someone supporting the application stood at the microphone. The disrespect didn’t end there, as several audience members blurted out, interrupted and tried to engage those speaking.

As expected, the moderators quietly sat and watched.

It became quite disheartening to see so many who claimed to be educated, and probably genuinely goodhearted people, act in such a childish manner, resorting to tactics of common schoolyard bullies because they didn’t agree with the person speaking.

Then, to witness a number of people insult and belittle an employee from Ice Mountain, passionate about their job while providing for their family, is about as despicable as despicable can get.

And the moderators did … The survey says: nothing.

What caught my attention more were the leaders and members of these groups, complacent and participating in such callow discourse.

That’s indefensible.

Those moments throughout the public hearing will echo louder and longer than any sanctimonious comment made against Nestlé’s permit.

To spend months demanding public hearings and then actively try to silence those whom you disagree with is beyond shameful.

That’s not democracy. It’s not even irony. That’s hypocrisy.

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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