The enemy is incivility

We are about to inaugurate a President who is the most unpopular President-elect in over forty years per more than one survey. Yet, he is our future President and our fortunes as a country are tied to this man.

I hope he is successful where he can truly help America and the planet. And, when he is headed down a perilous path, it is our right to take issue with his actions or lack of decorum.

But, it is our duty to raise issues with civility and a focus on the issues or the actions. The enemy is not our fellow neighbors who may passionately disagree with our position. We should treat each other with civility and expect the same in return. I welcome feedback that focuses on the issues and not me personally. Name calling and labeling are the tools of a lazy arguer or a child. When I see or hear labels, I am less impressed with the argument.

Earlier this week, we celebrated a true American hero for all races, Martin Luther King. He advocated for civil disobedience, when some of his proponents argued for more forceful action. He was heavily influenced by Gandhi, who practiced the same kind of discourse in both South Africa and India to successfully improve the rights of dark-skinned people in those countries.

It is more than OK to disagree with our leaders and each other. But, we must treat each other with dignity and respect. And, quoting an old boss, we have two ears and one mouth – we should use them in that proportion. Listening will significantly improve civil discourse.

Of all the people…

I had an old boss who was not only a great storyteller, he had funny lines to give little digs that sounded nice at first. He would do this to avoid saying something overtly negative, but get his point across. A good example is as follows, “of all the people in the world, he certainly is one of them.”

Another example is “he was talking about you, so I started to defend you, but recognized he was making some good points.” This one is more teasing of a friend than it is getting in a dig, but it can be used for either.

In my previous post, I spoke of civilly offering your differing opinion in the manner in which you would like to receive such. That is a goal, but sometimes we are dealing with insufferable people who, in short, think only their opinions have merit and you are stupid not to believe as they do.

Try as we may to offer our counter opinion, it is not heard. much less heeded. Often the purveyor will double down calling out more names or labels. As I have said many times, I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, but offer valid points and not labels.

This weekend, a blogger who is a consistent name caller followed his modus operandi on another blog. He started with an insulting label and comment denigrating the blogger and ended with more slams, even adding that intelligent people agree with his point implying that if you do not, then you are obviously not intelligent.

He actually did a disservice to his main argument, which was reasonably stated, even though I mostly did not agree with it. Yet, by bookending it with snarky comments and labels, his reasonable discourse was overshadowed. Plus, by being consistent in his labeling and snarky comments, he has earned a reputation that does a disservice to what he has to say.

So, I responded to his point where he said intelligent people agreed with him, by saying I guess I am stupid and shared why I disagreed with his point citing others who felt the same. I do not like to be flippant like this as it is not representative of how I want to receive feedback, so I apologized later for my tone, but not my point. Yet, that does not condone his tone or denigrating of a blogger who does her homework.

I do my best to stay informed using reliable news sources. I try to support my opinions with corroborating data or citing leaders or experts who feel likewise. Yet, at the end of the day, my opinions remain such, no more, no less. I will do my best to not call someone’s opinion stupid, but my and other opinions deserve similar respect.

Or, as another boss once said, “I am not going to pee down someone’s leg, but he should not pee down mine.” I just need to practice what I preach by giving feedback like a want it and not smelling like urine.

 

 

A few suggestions for a better 2017

As many blogs have highlighted, 2016 has been the most interesting of years. My biggest concerns go beyond any electoral issues. They are the decrease in civil discourse and the increase in fake news and misinformation.

On the lack of civil discourse, we must start listening to each other and not just to respond. We need to listen to understand the other’s point of view. We need to decrease the decibel level and the use of name-calling and labeling.

The louder people are and the more shortcuts they use by labels show their argument is poor. I personally find labels to be a lazy form of argument to dismiss the other’s point of view. I have been called a tree hugger for this purpose, but I usually counter that I am also a capitalist to make that person think a little more.

On the fake news and biased news sites, we must do a better job of labeling the veracity of these entities. If you are going to call yourself a news source, then you need to be doing what it takes to be right far more than you are wrong. And, you need to have an errata where corrections are made public. We must also do our part to understand the veracity of our news sources.

So, what can we do better in 2017? Treat others like we wanted to be treated would be a huge plus. Listen and provide feedback like you want to receive it. Also, know the following statements:

– neither political party has all the good ideas and both have some that are not so good or don’t factor in the holistic causes of the problem.

– political incorrectness does not give anyone license to lie or be a jerk. One can be candid without taking someone’s head off.

As for the fake news sites, be on your guard. If it reads like a tabloid, then that is a sure sign. If mainstream news is not covering an issue, but this source is, check out its veracity. If it says Sponsored Advertisement on it, that is opinion, not news. If you are getting your news from shock jock entertainers, that is opinion. Also, be guarded of Facebook forwarding of news and even blogs on this source (by the way, my site is not news and represent the opinions of its user).

These fake news creators are very good as they make a nice profit through advertisements. They can afford to be good at it. So, it does take effort and homework on our part.  I read a variety of sources, Reuters, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, news summaries and watch or listen to several others – PBS Newshour, BBC World News America, NPR, some mainstream news, etc.

Our issues are hard enough without us debating over the facts. We must gain common ground, listening and asking questions. Otherwise, we will solve the wrong problem.

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind

The above song lyric is from a great song by Lynryd Skynryd, a southern rock band hailing from my home town. It is a fitting song, since the initial band left us much too soon after a tragic plane crash that took its lead singer and others and altered its course.

With this song lyric in mind, I want to note a few other things that seemingly have “gone with the wind” or at least are eroding away:

– Civil discourse seems to be on the demise at a time when we need it most. If you disagree with someone, you need not take his or head off. Respond the way you would want to be responded to. And, listen to hear and not to respond.

– Handwritten letters are a lost art it seems. To me, it is a treat to get a note or card in the mail. When my first son went to college, I sent him a letter a week. When we moved him out, I stumbled onto the saved letters.

– Political correctness can be over done, but abandoning it for frank dialogue does not give the speaker the right to lie or be a jerk. One can be frank and still have a sense of decorum. See Civil discourse above.

– Privacy continues its decline, with Social Media, marketing segmentation and mining, hacking, and the absence of filters between people’s brains and fingers or mouth. Just because you think it or did it, does not mean we need to know about it.

– Our world remains a beautiful place. The biggest threat to it is us. All religious documents encourage us to be better stewards of our earth. There is no Planet B, so we better take care of this one.

If there is a theme above, it is we must treat each other and our planet better. We could start by treating ourselves with more respect. We are an imperfect lot, so we should cut each other a break. We can have civil discourse to discuss our problems. We stand a better chance of solving them that way.

Borrowing from Garfunkel and Webb

After breaking up with Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel sang a beautiful song written by Jimmy Webb, who wrote several of Glen Campbell’s hits (“Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”), The 5th Dimension’s “Beautiful Balloon,” and “MacArthur Park,” which was a huge hit in the 1970s as sung by the actor Richard Harris.

The song is called “All I Know.” The first stanza is as follows:

I bruise you, you bruise me
We both bruise too easily
Too easily to let it show

I love you and that is all I know

This song is intended as a love song between two people who often fight and have hurt feelings as a result. But, I would like to use this stanza as a metaphor for relationships between all of us in civil society that have gone awry.

We are too easily bruising each others’ feelings. We are also taking offense too easily, when we should not or should listen to hear rather listen to react. I was highly disappointed with the tenor of the most recently concluded political convention, when hateful remarks were the norm and not the exception. I am hoping that the one next week will be the antithesis.

As an independent voter, I don’t care if someone is conservative on a viewpoint or liberal. What I found is many people have a mixture of opinions. To this point, Ivanka Trump told the GOP audience she is an independent voter. And, she like me joins many unaffiliated Americans.

Yet, what I do not like is the lack of civil discourse and use of information which is not steeped in facts. The latter is a key reason I religiously check the two fact checking organizations summaries. But, let me set that aside for now and get back to the civil discourse.

I do not agree with everything the politicians or parties support. My disagreement may be material or it may be in emphasis. For example, the President has done a commendable job, but I am disappointed that he did not move forward on the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee’s report, he tends to like the use of drones where we need more governance, while he has moved the ball forward on climate change he is too fond of fracking, and he did not collaborate more with a highly uncollaborative and obstinate Congress, e.g.

What I can tell you is neither party has all of the solutions and sometimes are not asking the right questions. Neither party should be smug that their way is the only way or even the right way, especially with funding that fuels their opinions. Again, I don’t mind a conservative or liberal view, but let’s work off the right data and do so civilly, respecting each other’s opinions. And, let’s work with real solutions and not what easily fits on a bumper sticker. Bumper stickers are not policy, they are advertisements.

The debt is a huge problem. Climate change is a huge problem. Water resources are a huge problem. Poor gun governance is a huge problem. Poverty is a huge problem as is the declining middle class. Civil rights for all citizens, especially those most disenfranchised, are lacking in too many places. Infrastructure needs are paramount and fixing them will create jobs. Terrorism is important, but combatting it must be holistic and involve all of us.

Building actual and proverbial walls are not the answers. We must reach out to each other and solve these problems as the diverse Americans we are. No American is more American than the next. And, no less, either. So, let’s civilly discuss the issues.

Let’s sandpaper the edges

Life is tough at times, but we do not need to make it harder than it is. More than we should, we scrape someone with our unsanded edges and create splinters. Some expose more unsanded edges than others, but we all have them.

Continuing the thought, we should each carry our mental sandpaper with us to smooth our edges or help someone smooth theirs. This sandpaper can take many forms – it could be a smile or nod at a fellow shopper. It could be a good morning to an elevator rider or cashier. It could be pleasantries to a customer service representative or maybe a calm demeanor or extra dose of patience as they try to serve you.

In my forty years as an adult, I have witnessed that I receive better service the nicer I am to the associate. The calmer and more diplomatic I am with CSRs, the solution or answer can be found.

I chat with folks I don’t know quite often. Far more often than not, it is reciprocated and appreciated. Occasionally, I will find that unsanded edge. Depending on the splinter size, I may cease and desist or try another tack.

We need more civility toward each other. We need to observe what one of our presidential candidates does and not do that. Civil would not be the first word I use to describe that man.

So, let’s keep that sandpaper ready and smooth out our rough edges. We might even learn something.

How do you know who the good guys are?

A common refrain echoed in a couple of recent comments on blogs regarding gun deaths is the line from Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, who said “the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I have asked this rhetorical question before, but let me ask it again – “how do you know who the good guys are?” Just using a few examples as to why I pose this question, note the following.

There is a man on trial in Jacksonville, Florida who killed an African-American teen in a gas station because of an argument started over turning the volume of the radio down. There were several young men in the car and the alleged assailant’s wife was inside paying for items from the convenience store. No weapon was found in the car or at the scene from the African-American youth, yet the man said he saw a weapon. So, someone is dead over playing music too loudly. I would wager that people have come to his defense to say he was a good person.

A couple of months ago, a retired police officer shot a man in a theatre (who was with his wife) for talking on his cell phone. He apparently was speaking to the baby sitter while he and is wife were on a date. So, someone is dead over talking on a cellphone in a theatre. Like the above, the punishment does not fit the crime of talking in a theatre. I have already heard footage of how the retired police officer was such a good person.

Last year, George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watch person, was acquitted of killing an unarmed African-American youth. What bothers me about this acquittal is Zimmerman was told not to follow this person by the 911 officer when he called 911 to report the person. Yet, he followed Trayvon Martin and now Martin is dead. People talk about what a good person Zimmerman was and how he was so vigilant on the neighborhood watch.

Then, there are the countless deaths that occur every day in America. Our significant gun death problem is not the result of horrible mass shootings. No, by far, our gun death problem happens everyday. People get in arguments at home, in restaurants, in bars, at games, at concerts, etc. and make impulsive decisions and a life is ended because a gun was present. Plus, the number of suicides increase because of impulsive decisions when depressed and easy access to a weapon. Then, you have the accidental shootings by minors who find a weapon. This past week, yet another occurred when a two-year old shot his seventeen month old sister.

There are two tests you can do to validate these kinds of deaths. First, look in any paper for about a week and count the number of gun deaths. Second, and more troubling, Google “six-year-old shoots four-year-old” and count the number and pages of stories over the last few years. I cite this statistic in earlier posts, but according to the Journal of Acute Trauma and Medicine, looking at the wealthiest 23 nations, for every 100 gun deaths, the US has 80 of them. For every 100 children and teen gun deaths, he US has 87 of them, with the remaining 22 countries totaling 13. I view this as a problem.

Gun deaths are due to a variety of factors – lack of civility, predisposition to act, drugs, mental health issues, poverty, entertainment violence, but make no mistake they are also about gun access. Guns do not kill people, that is true, but people with access to guns do. I am not advocating infringing on Second Amendment rights, although that argument is an overplayed hand that applies little this day and age. But, I am advocating what Americans have noted in surveys – we want elongated background checks and longer waiting periods. And, the police have long advocated the codification of bullets, so crimes can be solved more quickly.

But, it has to be more than this – we must deal with getting more civil with each other and not letting simple arguments lead to a death. We should also deal with these other issues, especially the mental health one, but lack of civility needs to be addressed. The other related issue is what I call a “predisposition to act.” From Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” he notes the story that Bruce Springsteen captured in his song “American Skin” (or sometimes referred to as 41 Shots). A man who did not understand English very well was shot 41 times trying to get his card out of his wallet. The police involved were confirmed to have a predisposition to act toward this person and fired their guns in haste. They also fired 41 times on one person.

Getting back to the three stories above, these good guys with guns were emboldened to act. They had a predisposition to do something that ended up with three people dead. Three people who need not have been killed for their so-called transgressions. Having access to a weapon will compound an impulsive or irresponsible judgment call. This is one reason why allowing guns in bars is about the most inane idea possible.” Morons in the News” on the various morning radio shows are filled with impulsive decisions that ended in death over stupid or drunk arguments. Guns, alcohol and testosterone are an unhealthy mix.

So, when someone next raises the comment about the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, ask the headline question above. How do you know who the good guys are?