Being Civil


I wear a number of hats in my community, and I’m involved in a number of issues for which I have a great deal of interest and passion. My resume could be rather lengthy, but then, most people I know around town also take on a variety of tasks and roles, and have a treasure chest full of talents and experience. And, I’m certainly not the only one who can get stirred up about a subject.

My most important job title is “Citizen”. And we need to respect each other, and honor our fellow citizens for their vital role in our social fabric.

We don’t always agree, but we do keep talking with each other. We have lively, often passionate discussions and conversations about “hot topics” and how we can marshall our collective resources and move forward.

I suppose that’s politics, but it is politics in the good sense. We put our passions and our viewpoints out on the table, so we can have rich discussions, and so we can come together and find solutions, and implement them.

Sometimes, our conversations are heated and involved, but that is because we care. We care about each other, we care about our community, and we care to take the time and energy to make our community a stronger, more effective place to live our lives and invest in our future together.

I’ve learned to respect other people’s viewpoints. They have had different experiences, different backgrounds, different thoughts and opinions. Those differences are resources, assets for all of us to treasure and respect. We need all the tools we can find to take on our community’s problems and to move ahead.

In those conversations, those disagreements, we have the opportunity to explore the full extent of our problems and our solutions. Disagreements are really resources, and differing viewpoints give us the opportunity to examine our own views and our own solutions. By listening to others, respecting their views, and by working towards a consensus, or at least a collective decision based on compromise and fully explored views, we make better decisions.

Our diversity is one of our strengths and one of our best tools to build a better community and a better country.

I want people to not stir the political cauldrons, yelling about our differences, or crank up the volume of heated arguments. Nor do I want to applaud the cleverness of someone’s political rhetoric, or the depth of sarcasm and vitriolic speech.

Let’s tone it down, and be civil with each other.

“Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.”

– Pier Massimo Forni, Professor, Johns Hopkins University, who chairs their Civility Project (http://krieger.jhu.edu)

Wise words from the National Institute for Civil Discourse, at the University of Arizona, Tucson. (http://projectcivildiscourse.org) :

“Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the need for community leaders and elected officials to tone down the divisive and polarizing dialogue that seems to typify discussion about difficult community and political issues. But what is it that average, ordinary people can do to help heal our community and restore our sense of cohesiveness and solidarity in order to take on our common ground issues and concerns? We’d like to suggest the following as a starting point for measuring our individual impact on restoring Arizona’s “Civil Culture.” Feel free to add to this list!

1. 1. Be an active part of the community you live in!

o Do you know your neighbors? If not, go meet them! Make food to share and use it as an occasion to go door to door to meet new neighbors or your closest neighbors that you may not have met.

o If you are eligible, register to vote, inform yourself about local issues and vote in local, state and national elections. Attend public meetings and read up on the issues to make informed decisions.

o Get to know who your elected officials are and how to contact them to inform them of your views.

2. Volunteer / Serve others

o There are innumerable community organizations looking for regular or occasional volunteers.

Investigate ways to involve your whole family in regular volunteer activities that speak to an interest or concern that you all share.

o Make yourself available (within reason) to assist friends and neighbors in need.

3. . Make sure future grown¬ups are part of the solution

o If you’re a parent, talk to your children about respecting others with differences of opinion, and lead by example. Involve them in discussing ways to deal with conflict and disagreement in constructive, bridge -building ways.

o If you don’t have children, get involved with mentoring programs to provide support to young people who may not have good adult role models in their lives.

4. 4. Don’t take yourself so seriously

o When someone disagrees with you, don’t take it personally. Refuse to allow the disagreement to escalate into an exchange of personal attacks. Ask questions to really try to understand where the other person is coming from, and show them that while you may not agree with them, you are interested in understanding their point of view.

o If you’re having a bad day, consciously make an effort not to take it out on others.

5. . Broaden your horizons
Learn about, or get involved with, people that are not like you. Seek out cultural activities or performances that you’ve not experienced before; read about or take a class on another culture, religion, political ideology, interest, etc.”

Developed March 08, 2011 by Maricopa Community Colleges Center for Civic Participation for Project Civil Discourse * projectcivildiscourse.org

— Neal Lemery 2/1/2016

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