Why do we abhor criticism in this town?

Expanding from Mary Beth Stutzman’s recent column, why are we so afraid to point out something that is not as good as it should be (or could be) — or worse, is affirmatively bad?

A theater production is absurd in its conception (without even considering its actual performance). A new restaurant serves mediocre food, badly. A newspaper column appears to celebrate someone whom one would have thought it was generally agreed was not worth celebrating. We see these things, or experience them, and our experience is less than it should be, but we say nothing. Why?

It cannot be that we have never experienced criticism, whether as the target or the critical voice or even simply as a spectator. Criticism is everywhere, and provides the valuable service of distinguishing that which is worth our time and finite disposable income from that which is not. Indeed, we rely on criticism precisely for this. Not every movie (or book or play or restaurant) merits a positive review. Unless we are fools (or masochists), we avoid wasting our time and money at the mediocre and foolish when we could be spending it at the new and interesting.

Additionally, criticism should be expected. If you put yourself before the public, as a restaurant or theater company or columnist, or what have you, you should expect that not everyone you encounter will agree with you, or think that you’re wonderful. And, you should expect to have to be able to defend what you put out over your name. That’s how we learn, how we improve.

But, not here. Instead, we go along, accepting the pedestrian, the ordinary. As if the motto of the town has been changed to “Come celebrate mediocrity with us.”