Suffering fools, winning prizes and defining one's turf

April 16, 1997

Not long ago I talked to a local man I've known for more than 20 years, a man whom I like and respect a great deal. Our conversation concerned a local woman of his long acquaintance whose enterprises have often, though not always, become embroiled in controversy.

Given his description of her as someone with a keen analytical mind who's capable of brilliant insights, why, I asked, does she inspire so much opposition?

"Well," he said, "She does not suffer fools gladly."

That expression is derived from a biblical verse in Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians, in which he speaks about the suffering he has endured, that good people in general must endure if they're going to change the world for the better.


In the 19th verse of the eleventh chapter, Paul says, "For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise."

Now I do not pretend to be a biblical scholar, nor is this column written as bible study. But the quote does get to the heart of what prevents progress in many situations, public and private.

The people who do have great knowledge and insight often don't succeed because they don't realize that just knowing what's right isn't enough. You also have to educate and persuade other people to agree with you. Or failing that, you must at least convince them to allow you to proceed without talking against you, or opposing you outright.

Smart people often make the mistake of deciding that those who don't have their vast knowledge are fools incapable of learning. The truth is that most of the time, nobody's taken the trouble to educate them.

No doubt there are some true fools out there, holding to their mistaken beliefs despite a mountain of conflicting evidence. They cling to these worn-out ideas like a child hangs onto a ragged blanket, not because it's useful anymore, but because it's always been there. Unfortunately, outmoded ideas are not as visible as old baby blankets, so it's not as easy to tell who's holding onto them, even if you are a person with a keen analytical mind. My advice: Communicate first, make judgments later.

The winners of last week's pro-and-con letter-writing contest on whether Washington County needs charter home rule are Margaret Comstock (for home rule) Donald Day (against home rule). Comstock argued that the county needs a charter, a constitution of its own to govern its affairs. Day argued that there aren't enough good candidates locally to dispense with the checks provided on the county commissioners by the local delegation to the General Assembly. To the winners, your $10 checks will be in the mail shortly.

In a related issue, state Sen. Don Munson, R-District 2, wrote to comment on The Herald-Mail's April 7 editorial, which called for a discussion between the delegation and the county commissioners on where their respective responsibilities begin and end.

The editorial came after the delegation decided to overrule the commissioners' decision to decertify the county road workers' union. In recent years, the delegation has also mandated that the commissioners spend money for a new Fairplay fire hall and prevented the commissioners from cutting the county's charitable contributions.

Munson's letter was accompanied by one from Kathryn M. Rowe, an assistant attorney general responding to his request for an opinion on "the relationship between the delegation and the delegation."

After a long discussion of how the position of county commissioners evolved, the opinion concludes with a sentence which Munson remarks "says it all."

Citing numerous court cases and previous attorney generals' opinions, the opinion closes by saying, "They (the commissioners) are creatures of the state, and have no rights which they may assert against it."

"In the past," Munson said, "I have always been willing to give wide latitude to the commissioners, knowing full well it is they who need the flexibility to deal with often difficult local problems. Nonetheless, I am not willing to abrogate, diminish or permit to be abridged my ability to do what is right and in the best interest of the people of Washington County."

He concludes by saying he feels it's his responsibility as a senator "to deal with local issues on a case-by-case basis when I judge it appropriate and in the best interest of the people to do so."

Nobody's disputing the delegation's power to act. What the editorial is asking for is a discussion of when the delegation is likely to intervene. Given the county's water and sewer debt problems, that might be an appropriate issue on which to get involved, and yet there's no sign to delegation wants to do so. I am puzzled, and believe a discussion of "who does what" is needed.

The Herald-Mail Articles