Guest opinion: ‘Divisiveness’ muddies clinic opposition

The cabal of hysteria known as Save Our Sequim conjures an image of a willful child, eyes shut tight, fingers stuffed in ears, screaming “I won’t! I won’t!”

And, sadly, Save Our Sequim “won’t.” It won’t listen to reasoned arguments, won’t tolerate facts or points of views outside its myopic agenda, and won’t stop spewing half-truths and red herrings in print while members engage in inflammatory rhetoric on its social media site.

Despite its claim of more than 2,000 supporters, SOS cannot halt or even slow the development of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed regional Medical-Assisted Treatment facility for opioid addiction. Because SOS really is impotent to do either. The MAT clinic is a legal use within Sequim’s Economic Opportunity Area zoning.

But SOS has succeeded in building barriers and fostering divisiveness. Even after the facts, aims and rationale for the MAT clinic have become clearer, SOS’s social media site continues to be a wellspring of misinformation and distortions, while morphing into a launch pad for pointless boycotts that are reportedly damaging some small local businesses.

So I ask the question, what will save Sequim from Save Our Sequim?

Full disclosure: I attended the July 28 SOS meeting because initially I was opposed to the tribe’s proposal based on exposure to a MAT facility located in Seattle’s SODO district near where I work. I didn’t want this town I’ve loved for 45 years to resemble the way the corner of Airport Way and Holgate Street typically does. And I didn’t like the sound of opioid treatment for profit.

But prior to and after that July 28 meeting, I’d been asking questions and seeking information. The more I learned, the more my fear morphed to doubting — doubting that what I was hearing from SOS was entirely true. Two days before the tribe’s Aug. 8 community forum I asked my wife, who was becoming active in SOS (and no longer is), if we could really accept SOS’s narrative.

Then I asked her what we now consider our “pivot” question: Why would the tribe, with its millennia of history in this area, with members living in and around Sequim, propose something that would somehow bring harm to the community?

The blurry edges became clearer during the tribe’s community forum. Within 48 hours I’d transitioned to being a cautious supporter with concerns. What changed my mind? The facts I’d long awaited as to who would be helped and how, coming to understand that any profit by law would be reinvested into other health services. Learning that discussions surrounding this clinic have been ongoing in open public meetings since at least 2018. And what changed my heart? The tribe’s evident commitment to our community as demonstrated in its Sequim healthcare clinic.

Meanwhile, the toxic language on SOS’s social media page has grown by an order of magnitude. And after my wife reached out to those on the pro-MAT side – to seek common ground, to understand better – she was promptly blocked from the SOS social media page. Other former SOS supporters report the same thing.

That speaks volumes about SOS: there’s no compromise, no interest in finding common ground, no room for understanding the other person’s perspective. SOS dismisses the tribe’s and OMC’s data and facts as “propaganda,” wants us to accept its recent mailer as the plain truth and demonizes community members, including those who have recovered from opioid addiction, for favoring the MAT clinic.

Have SOS’s leaders considered that any meaningful role SOS could play in shaping how the clinic fits into Sequim (and how future issues are addressed) has evaporated due to its rhetoric and animosity? Or that lashing out at local businesses to alleviate anger against the tribe and local politicians is at best a Pyrrhic victory?

So what will save Sequim from Save Our Sequim? Speaking truth to misinformation will. Listening sincerely to other points of view will. Neighbor reaching out to neighbor in reasoned conversation about the MAT clinic will. And speaking out against pointless boycotts will.

Concerns? Sure, we all have plenty. But fear clouds clear thinking, and at this juncture it’s clear thinking, coupled with compassion, that must prevail and become the healing balm for the wounds SOS is inflicting on Sequim.

Paul Schmidt first moved to Sequim in 1974 and is a graduate of Sequim High School. He and his wife returned to Sequim in 2018. His first career was in journalism. He currently works in the railroad industry.