The Amarillo Pioneer

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Editorial: Why I'm Thankful for 'Sour Grapes'

This year, I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m healthy, happy and successful. I have great family, great friends and live in the greatest city in the world. But this year, I am thankful for something a little different. I am thankful for “sour grapes.”

Now, for those who don’t know, the term sour grapes actually means “disparagement of something that has proven unattainable,” according to Merriam-Webster. The term comes from The Fox and the Grapes, which is one of the Aesop’s Fables. In the story, a fox reaches high for grapes on a vine, but cannot reach them. Therefore, instead of admitting defeat, he declares the grapes to be undesirable to rationalize his failures.

In saying all of this, you can consider sour grapes to mean bitterness, hatefulness and a downright refusal to admit defeat. You may be wondering then why would I be thankful for “sour grapes.” Notice, I place quotation marks around the phrase “sour grapes” when I discuss what I am thankful for. I believe bitterness has no place in civil discussion and discussion over policy. At the same time, I am thankful for “sour grapes.” Let me explain.

Over the past year and a half, I have heard the term “sour grapes” bandied about often. Locally, I have heard the term used by supporters of the status quo and establishment politicians use the term to describe the opposition. Supporters of the incumbent City Council have accused many of the group’s political opponents of harboring “sour grapes.” At the same time, anyone who expresses an opinion dissenting from the City Council’s, including myself, have been accused of harboring “sour grapes.”

Anymore, when one of the City Council’s supporters accuses me of harboring “sour grapes,” I just have to smile.

See, I take “sour grapes” as a compliment. Rather than rationalizing an argument, these individuals immediately attempt to stick a label on whoever disagrees with their agenda. This highlights a major problem in today’s society, as we refuse to see each other as rational individuals who can disagree on issues of substance, and instead call each other names to make ourselves feel better about our positions.

In essence, “sour grapes” doesn’t actually mean sour grapes anymore. Instead, it has just become a label for those with dissenting opinions, used by those who cannot rationalize their emotions into an argument.

If “sour grapes” is meant to be an insult for dissenting with the City Council and the status quo’s agenda, I think it would be beneficial to go over what these so-called “sour grapes” have actually done over the last year and a half in Amarillo.

Without “sour grapes,” Kip Billups would never have been arrested and the state of Amarillo government would look completely different.

On a fateful day in April, Kip Billups was arrested after clapping and refusing to comply with Mayor Ginger Nelson’s orders to stand during a City Council meeting. I am thankful that Billups was arrested. Not only did this incident reveal a gross misunderstanding of a presiding officer’s authority at City Council meetings, but it also inspired new individuals to take action at City Hall. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Billups being arrested, or his actions, you must admit Billups’ arrest left Amarillo’s citizenry forever energized and informed in a way I have never seen before.

Shortly after Billups’ arrest, I met with “the Clapper” at a local fast food restaurant to interview him for a story. During the roughly 30 minutes we sat and talked about his actions, I saw multiple individuals come up and thank Billups for what he has done. These individuals are not City Council meeting regulars, or people you will see protesting in front of City Hall, but these are individuals who are now watching the actions of City Hall. I have seen more engagement over the past several months in regards to the actions of City Hall than I have seen in years. I don’t believe this would be happening without Kip Billups’ arrest.

Without “sour grapes,” animal advocates would not be mobilized in Amarillo.

This goes back to the actions of City Hall. Over the course of the year, two different dogs have been euthanized in situations that were absolutely unacceptable. In one situation, the City of Amarillo euthanized a pregnant dog while it was in labor. In that case, City staff initially fumbled on whether the dog was aggressive, but later admitted the dog had not bitten anybody, but still rationalized the dog’s euthanasia, saying the dog was a “party to a biting.” In another case, the City of Amarillo euthanized a family’s dog that was due to be reclaimed, which led to City officials saying they would “take responsibility,” but stopping short of offering an apology.

In the cases of both these dogs’ deaths, animal advocates have made sure the horrors inflicted upon these animals did not go in vain, calling for responsible reforms at Animal Management & Welfare.

These dissenters, carrying their “sour grapes” have made strides in fixing real problems regarding the treatment of animals in this community and have even started a petition to establish a no-kill shelter in Amarillo. I am beyond thankful for these individuals.

Without “sour grapes,” we would not have had the incumbent challengers

I did not support Kel Seliger for re-election this year, and hoped voters would select a new representative. Unfortunately, local voters decided differently. While I disagree, I am forever grateful that Victor Leal and Mike Canon stepped up to take on the Amarillo establishment’s perennial Austin fixture. I heard both of these individuals ridiculed for making runs for office, with some version of the term “sour grapes” used to describe their candidacies (Leal lost an election in 2010, and Canon lost an election to Seliger in 2014). Both of these men were attacked by the blowhard political action committee Amarillo Matters, which in one reporting cycle only reported contributions from two donors. Using the contributions of a small group of individuals, this group attempted to purchase yet another election.

While Seliger, Amarillo Matters and his Austin lobbyist and consultant buddies were able to barely squeak out a win, this election forced Seliger to talk about issues and, in some cases, address his horrendous record.

These “sour grapes” exposed real flaws in Seliger’s record and got new individuals watching the actions of the 31st District’s senator. In my mind, more people keeping a watchful eye on government is never a bad thing.

Without “sour grapes,” we would not have robust public comment at City Council meetings.

Mike Fisher, Claudette Smith, Noah Dawson, James Schenck, and the others who ask questions at City Council meetings: the “sour grapes” team. These individuals have kept the City Council on their toes and have challenged them when they needed to be challenged. In some cases, I have witnessed these individuals be threatened, disparaged or put “on notice” by City officials for their comments during meetings. Regardless of whether you agree with the content of their speeches, they are keeping public comment and the spirit of the Open Meetings Act alive.

And finally, without “sour grapes,” we would not have independent journalism in Amarillo.

Over the past year and a half, I have been accused of harboring “sour grapes” more times than I could count. Frankly, I love it. With these “sour grapes,” we have exposed real issues at City Hall, the County Courthouse and everywhere else. With these “sour grapes,” we have informed voters about all of their choices at the ballot box. With these “sour grapes,” we have made sure transgressions against the freedom of the taxpayers of Amarillo have been exposed.

With these “sour grapes,” we have worked for the people of Amarillo, not for the establishment of the status quo. That’s the way a free press should work.

So, I don’t care if Kel Seliger, Ginger Nelson, or any member of the City Council likes it. We are working for the taxpayers of Amarillo, and that’s the bottom line. Every day, people like myself, my father, Trent Rosser, Noah Dawson and others work to make sure people really know what’s happening in our government, and we’re not going to stop anytime soon.

With all of that being said, if “sour grapes” means expressing a dissenting opinion, then I love these “sour grapes.” Thanks for reading all of my “sour grapes” this year and I can’t wait to share them with all of you in 2019 and beyond.

-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief

Photo by City of Amarillo

Photo by City of Amarillo

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