Before casting that stone, is your house glass?

Published 12:59 pm Monday, June 25, 2018

I know I may speak for many adults around the area when I say “I sure am glad Social Media wasn’t around when I was in my late teens and early 20s”.

I have stayed away from this topic on purpose, as there was much “he said, she said” going on. And I wanted to ensure I understood the situation prior to writing about it, much the way I do for all my columns. This one just took a bit to unfold.

Mid March saw accusations of Groves Councilman Cross Coburn, a 19-year-old, who seemingly won the seat fairly when his opponent withdrew from the race, wishing Coburn the best of luck and stating it’s time for a new face on council.

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The accusations by an unnamed individual consisted of sharing inappropriate pictures of himself to an individual he met on an online gay dating site.

Coburn defended himself publicly by stating the matter is purely personal and private.

May 4th saw a recall petition filed against the Groves councilman with 20 days given to collect 953 signatures.

Later in May, the attorney for Coburn called the attack on the councilman a smear campaign by someone on the Groves City Council.

Let’s get to the punch:

  1. Does it matter that Coburn is gay? Absolutely not.
  2. It is a personal matter and should be left out of the press? Absolutely not. One of the main lessons Coburn will learn from this is that once you become an elected official, your life is not your own. Just ask former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned from Congress in 2011 after he sent inappropriate photos to an adult woman via Twitter.
  3. Does the community of Groves have the right to petition for his removal? Yes, they do. Citizens want an individual on City Council they trust will represent them properly. When that trust is broken, under the accusations of “actions unbecoming of a public official,” removal is definitely an option for citizens.
  4. What is a “smear campaign?” Smear campaign means an activity that can harm an individual’s reputation. It is an effort to destroy a targeted person’s image and character. It is a form of negative campaigning. They are usually adopted by a rival political party or a candidate who intends to damage another political party or candidate’s reputation. A smear campaign is a tactic to bring down a person’s credibility. In Port Arthur, this is all too common around politics.
  5. Is a “smear campaign” illegal? Only if the information being spread is inaccurate, untrue or straight up lies does the victim have a libel or slander case. In that case, it is illegal.
  6. If removed, will the city of Groves bear additional expense needing to establish another election to fill the council void? It’s quite possible. Unless they can tack it onto another upcoming election.
  7. Will Coburn learn from this as he moves forward through his political future? One can only hope that learning this lesson now will make him a better politician in the future if he decides to continue that venture.

But before casting him out, if that ends up being the decision, should we not look at ourselves, too? Look at our pasts, our own lessons learned through life and how those lessons created the individuals we are today.

I said it at the top of the column: “I’m glad social media wasn’t around when I was in my late teens and early 20s.” That minefield of possible deception combined with a need for acceptance is ruining hundreds of thousands of lives. From the loss of jobs to families being torn apart, social media is really not so social. Nor is it your friend.

I, for one, have made my mistakes. Thirty-plus years ago, I handled a situation extremely poorly, and it cost me my job at the time. And it should have, for that matter. However, I didn’t see it that way then.

Did I learn from that mistake? Yes, I did. I did not let it keep me down for long. And in the number of years that followed, I became a better person for it and ultimately found a better life and profession suited for my personality than where I was prior.

I am certain, no matter the outcome, Coburn will do the same. He seems like a motivated individual who cares about his community.

So before casting that stone, we all need to make sure we don’t live in glass houses.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.