Fluoride Action Network

Diversity, fluoride stir debate

Source: Fond du Lac Reporter | The Reporter’s managing editor
Posted on August 31st, 2008

Local residents have been presented with a couple of complicated and controversial issues during the past few weeks.

There have been no easy answers, but there has been a glut of half-truths, distortions, flat-out lies and inherited beliefs that are absolutely right or absolutely wrong — depending on who’s doing the talking.

On top of that, a presidential campaign is about to move from a controlled jog to an unbridled sprint.

Now comes the seemingly endless onslaught of political ads, polls, speeches and political analysis ad nauseam. Negative ads, name-calling, rancor and bitterness will eventually show up — followed by an election and the inevitable plea for unity across party lines.

It’s all part of the American way of electing a president.

Election Day, however, is a long, fate-filled 64 days down the road.

There’s time to take a reflective look over our collective shoulder at the complicated and controversial issues I mentioned earlier. To be specific, they are the Comprehensive Countywide Diversity Initiative Statement of Principles and the proposed referendum on fluoridation of Fond du Lac’s water.

For the record, action on the Statement of Principles (a document that rests on the foundation that Fond du Lac County should strive to be a friendly and welcoming community to everyone) has been postponed indefinitely; and the request for a Fond du Lac fluoride referendum has been defeated by the narrowest of margins by the City Council.

Diversity postponement

I find the postponement by the County Board a bit disappointing and disturbing. But perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise. A postponement provides an opportunity to present a better argument, organize support for the diversity statement and develop perspective.

Frankly, those who opposed the diversity statement did a much better job of making their case at the County Board meeting on Aug. 19. They cowed members of the County Board. They gave them an excuse to hide in the shadow of a postponement.

I certainly don’t believe that opponents of the diversity statement represent the majority view of Fond du Lac County residents. We’re in trouble as a community and a society if they do.

I don’t want to believe that Fond du Lac County residents would see value in blocking people of different races, cultures, nationalities, religious beliefs and sexual orientation from moving here.

It’s no secret, though, that ignorance breeds fear, and fear produces prejudice and hate, whether the focus is race or sexual orientation.

I’m old enough to remember a time when blacks were forced to sit in the back of public transit buses; when they were not allowed to eat in “white-only” restaurants or use “white-only” restrooms. Black people were lynched, and law enforcement used fire hoses to control those who assembled to protest. Many children in that era were raised to believe that such behavior was acceptable.

Thankfully, times have changed, but there’s a long road to travel.

Fluoride referendum

The City Council made a courageous decision Wednesday night when it decided by a vote of 4-3 that an advisory referendum on fluoride in the city water supply was unnecessary. I’d feel better if the margin had been 5-2 or 6-1.

Fluoridation will continue. That’s the proper course of action based on information available through medical experts.

I realize that many people are angry because they believe that a petition insures that government must respond with a referendum to allow the electorate to vote. On matters of public health, I don’t believe that makes any sense.

I want health issues to be resolved through research and the outcome of medical expertise, not inflammatory claims, rhetoric and petitions sitting on the counters of convenience stores. Local dental health experts point out that “nearly 100 national and international organizations recognize the public health benefits of community water fluoridation …”

That piece of information trumps a petition every time.