There’s a moment in William Golding’s classic novel, “Lord of the Flies,” and it’s chilling, and it reads exactly like this: “Maybe there is a beast … maybe it’s only us.”
For students of literature, you already know the novel details of the complete disintegration of democracy under the most savage of circumstances.
You can now set down your books, because that same disintegration is happening at the Houston County Board meetings, and it’s by no means fictional.
A visit to a county board meeting is equal parts demoralizing, dispiriting and denigrating these days.
The five-member board, whose commissioners have long ceased to function in any reasonable way, offers us disintegration in the word’s coldest and cruelest definitions: The process of losing cohesion or strength, and the process of coming to pieces.
There are serious flaws in commissioners’ practices, decorum and their adherence to the necessary rules of democracy, and how they’ve been allowed to come to such a dire-that-won’t-end should frighten every citizen in Houston County.
The meetings, which have long since turned into battling matches between chairman Judy Storlie and commissioner Justin Zmyewski, often detract from serious violations from the other commissioners with a ring-side seat.
Commissioner Teresa Walter, at the board’s Jan. 12 meeting, wandered in and out of the meeting (a presenter was running late), missing key discussion points.
Most egregiously, Commissioner Dana Kjome has ceased to vote (other than to dissent, which he usually does in lock-step with Zmyewski). He neither speaks, nor nods when votes are called. There’s been no official response to his behavior, although it’s been indicated that this is just his “way.”
As for commissioner Steve Schuldt, he remains ominously silent and pursed-lipped through most of the meetings. He often sits through the verbal boxing matches around him, eyes lowered. It’s understandable, because the rhetoric he’s being asked to endure along with the rest of us is shame-inducing. His silence, however, is also rather enabling.
In one corner, often violating every level of civility with condescension dripping from his lips (at one time actually offering to speak more slowly so he could be understood), is Zmyewski, who seems to take his principal aim at Storlie, who’s often so shrill in her counter-attacks she seems to be smacking down clowns in a carnival dunking tank.
This is theatrics on a grand scale, if, like me, you subscribe to the notion of how critic Walter Kerr once defined theater: A cross between a lie and a sport. “It’s a lie because what’s happening isn’t true,” Kerr said, “and it’s a sport because everybody knows it isn’t true.”
At the county, it’s blood sport.
With all the caterwauling of late about who is lying and who is telling the truth from their elected seats, the truth is these commissioners are all lying to themselves.
They are not governing you, and every single one of them should be replaced.
This behavior isn’t relegated to the board, it’s saturated the gallery. The public gets its turn in the ring, although just when and for how long has recently been yet another relentless hammering job amongst the commissioners, and adopts its tone from its elected officials, often cruel, threatening, and sometimes downright incendiary.
I’m afraid there’s no maybe about it, Mr. Golding. That beast is there, and it’s all around us.