Civility and frankness are not mutually exclusive

I find it interesting when I get push back as folks ask why should we be civil when the other side is not? Often I respond with the simple retort – civility and frankness are not mutually exclusive. One can push back without taking the other person’a head off.

I am reminded of the story of a black man who has been able to change the mindset of more than 200 KKK members. In so doing, he collects their robes. Now, the KKK is as extreme a white supremacist group as there is. How did he do it? He spoke civilly toward them asking a few questions. He listened to their answers. Then, he asked pertinent follow-up questions. Eventually, the KKK members saw the logic of his argument. He says people just want to be heard.

Diplomacy is an art. It is a way of understanding people, but being forthright with what you believe and want. In essence, it is precisely what this black man did in speaking with the KKK members. He did not shout. He did not tell them they were wrong or bad people. He started conversations and listened to them. Then, he asked questions in follow-up. He heard them which allowed them to hear him.

A few diplomatic phrases might be beneficial. You might ask, “Help me understand why you would say that?” Or, you could use a more unnerving statement like, “I understand your points, but I do not find them to be entirely true.” Or, you could say, “I have not heard that before; tell me where did you read that?” Or, you might say, “that used to be true, but is no longer.”

Tone matters. The more measured you are, the better chance your points will be heeded. If you raise your voice, expect it in return. Avoid the use of labels and name-calling. When I hear labels, it means the other person’s arguments are not as well-grounded. Labels are short cuts to convey a derogatory meaning to less informed people. As with shouting, name-calling begets name-calling.

In today’s America, we are less civil. The current President did not invent uncivil behavior nor did he invent stretching the truth. A way to convey a position without attacking one of his fans might be “I wish the President would not tweet as much as he is hurting his message.” Another is “I wish the President would not demean people when they are critical of his efforts.” I wish the President would reconsider the tariffs he placed on our allies.” Or, “I wish he would not stretch the truth like he does.”

I am far from perfect and my poor wife hears the more unvarnished version of what I type and say. But, I will leave with one final thought I have noted before. If you want your children to really hear you, whisper.

Mr. President, please refrain from weighing in…

The continuation of this title is “Mr. President, please refrain from weighing in…
– if you do not know the facts;
– if your comments are more harmful than helpful;
– if what you are about to say is untruthful; or
– if you do not know what you are talking about.”

Being a narcisstic man who is in a position of leadership, he feels emboldened to opine on anything. Seemingly innocuous issues become contentious, as result. It truly wears me out.

Unfortunately, he does this with intent to find wedge issues to divide, but often he just cannot help himself. If he is talking or tweeting, most likely he is being untruthful, harmful or both.

This week proved to be no exception. Top of mind:

– he denied knowing a man who he appoInted as interim Attorney General, despite evidence that he routinely met with him because he did not like being briefed by Jeff Sessions;

– he had the White House release a doctored video prepared by Infowars to portray reporter Jim Acosta in a worse light;

– he criticized, by name, Republican Congress members who lost for not genuflecting enough to his greatness, trying to distract from the negative impact he has sown;

– he accused the states of Florida and Arizona of election fraud without supporting proof;

– he was hypercritical of three African-American reporters who asked questions he did not like, yet they were legitimate questions, as most are with this President.

These are only a few of this week’s statements. I have gravitated toward the word tumultuous, when thinking of this President. He is the walking embodiment of trying to hold mercury in your hands.

So, please Mr. President, do not feel the need to weigh in on so many issues. Especially, given the extended title in the first paragraph. I do not believe a word you say, anyway, as the odds are well in my favor not to do so.

Thursday’s little bit of this and that

Having been away at the funeral for my friend’s mother, I have been a little out of sorts as well as out-of-pocket. The elections and next two days of affairs have my mind spinning, so please forgive me as I comment on a little bit of this and that.

The election results are encouraging from a number of fronts, but most of all from the number of diverse candidates that led to the Democrats retaking the House of Representatives. I am proud to see more newcomers and many women getting elected. These folks felt the need to get involved to focus on issues and decorum, which has been kicked to the curb. I wish for them to have the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the collaborative bipartisan bent of former Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan.

I was also pleased to see a number of ballot initiatives pass in various states. Several so-called red states voted on the expansion of Medicaid, which is telling. Florida passed an initiative that would overturn the highly restrictive limitations on former felons regaining the right to vote after they get out. And, in North Carolina, every former governor advocated for the successful defeat of a power grabbing measures by the GOP led legislature to limit the powers of appointment of the governor.

While the Senate result was a little displeasing given the election of a couple of folks who should not hold public office (Former Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Senator Ted Cruz), the GOP maintaining the majority was not news. My greatest disappointment is two races benefitted racist efforts to likely win, although one is still not certain. The fact Brian Kemp may win the Georgia governor’s race after his blatant unethical and untruthful efforts to channel Jim Crow-like voter restriction is disheartening. Should he win, the state of Georgia deserves much better than him, as if he cheated to win, he will cheat while serving. The other is in Florida, where the new governor Ron DeSantis has a racist past and benefitted from racists robo calls and dog whistle statements, one he made. Florida deserves better, especially following Scott.

What has not changed is the US President continuing to channel his inner child heightening his lack of truthfulness, bullying and denigration of the media. At his tempestuous news conference yesterday, I kept thinking that a leader needed to step up and put him in time-out. I am still amazed at how he can sell his followers that he is the one telling the truth and that everyone who is against him is lying. But, per his five biographers, that has been his schtick over time. His firing of AG Jeff Sessions was expected, but at the heart of this, is the US President thinks the AG represents him, not the country. It is not a puzzle that Trump cannot fathom that the recusal was the ethical thing to do. He asked, “what kind of man would do that?” An ethical one.

Finally, we have one more mass shooting in America. How can we stop them? It is simply quite difficult to stop a motivated lone gunman (and it is almost always a man). Our police and FBI are terrific, but with our freedoms of less-inhibited gun ownership and the focus more on the lesser problem of foreign terrorists taking money from preventing the far worse domestic terrorists and hate groups, we are making it easier not harder to kill many at one time. Our leaders have lacked the courage to do more and too many are paid to avoid doing so. So, I just pray that my family, friends and others are just not in the wrong place at the wrong time. And, I pray that those leaders find that conscience they misplaced.

 

 

 

That Jesus saying

That Jesus saying. You know the one I am talking about. In my bible it says something about “do unto others.” What I told my kids quite often is the paraphrase “treat others like you want to be treated.”

We should aspire to be like this, but we are human and fall short of this goal. Often, we recognize this and make amends or feel poorly about ourselves for offensive behavior.

Even when we vehemently disagree with someone, we should approach them the same way we want to be approached. The best way to discuss differences is through reasonable dialogue. Facts help. Listening helps even more. A colleague used to ask “help me understand,” as a way of starting dialogue when he had a hard time understanding where someone was coming from.

We must not emulate the coarse behaviors exhibited by the President of the United States. When we do, truth and civil discourse suffer. This kind of behavior sows seeds of division. It also harms our country damaging our reputation and trustworthiness around the world.

We must not follow the suggestions of Congresswoman Maxine Walters to harass members of the President’s team. That is not how she would want to be treated and is a very slippery slope. And, unless a patron is causing an uproar, service providers should not decline service because they disagree with a patron’s politics. That is also a slippery slope.

As an Independent voter and former member of both parties, neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones. We must listen to each other and work toward solving real problems. We must reach out to our politicians, but do so in a civil way. People can be strident in their opinions without being a jerk. I reach out to leaders often with this modus operandi in mind.

My blogging friends Jill and Gronda published excellent posts on this subject yesterday. I would encourage you to read them. Let me leave with this thought to remember along with Jesus’ powerful words courtesy of an old boss. “You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.”

That pledge thing

We Americans know how it goes as we did it every day in school. I pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…It is more important than the national anthem, as its words have greater meaning and depth than the song.

I want to call attention to what is not included. It does not say I pledge allegiance to the Democratic Party, the Republican Party or one of the other parties. Nor do we pledge our oath to a splinter group or specific individual. And, while many are faithful, our pledge honors a commitment to allow people to worship how they see fit.

Our tribe are the citizens of the United States of America. We pledge to a republic  which is indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Those last two words are not caveated. It also does not say my freedoms are more important than yours. And, the converse is not true.

When our leaders do not honor this pledge like we do or turn their heads when other leaders are not upholding their end of the bargain, we need to be critical of these shortcomings. As an Independent voter who has been a member of both parties, neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones.

What I have less tolerance for is American citizens ignoring the obvious. We have an elected President who daily is attacking our democracy. Very few people would want to work for a person like this. Do not tell me he is telling the truth as his lying is routine. Do not tell me the mainstream media is unfairly criticizing him as I don’t see that. Do not tell me this is not impacting us when our allies think we are less trustworthy and civil discourse continues its decline with this man at the helm.

We have serious problems in our country and it is hard enough to solve them when we consider the truth and consider each other’s opinions. When we do not, we stand little chance In hell to do so.

 

What this independent voter believes

As an Independent voter who has been a member of both parties, I have been frustrated by the lack of civility, lack of truth and lack of due diligence shown by the President. I am also frustrated by the ongoing rationalization by his party for his behavior. When he was elected, I said let’s give him a chance as his success will be ours and that is how this works. I did have low expectations which he has failed to achieve. After I made the above statement of hope, within days he appointed Steve Bannon as a Senior Advisor. That made a huge statement to me meaning white supremacy and nationalism had a chair at the table.

The President consistently is more untruthful than he is not. His lying has been measured at 69% of the time, which is kind as it gives him credit for partial truths in the 31%. This is not news as Politifacts said he lied 70% of the time during the campaign and his five biographers and ghost writer for his biggest selling book all said Trump has a problem with the truth. Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked with Trump, wrote last June, 2016, that “Trump lies every day, even about things of no consequence.” Other leaders in the US and abroad do not trust this man and why would they? So, I keep it simple and do not believe a word he says as the odds are in my favor.

Then there is the demonization of everyone who dares criticize him or did things he did not do. Everything Obama or Bush did is “horrible” and every thing he will do will be “beautiful” or “make you happy.” But, it is the transactional, zero-sum game he plays with critics that is so childish. He must crush critics to make it alright in his mind. He rarely criticizes on issues or policies as he is not steeped in details. He prefers a mud fight. This lack of civility to people who have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods, civil rights, etc, is downright un-Presidential and un-Christian. It would not be confused with the right thing to do and to me is very telling.

If this were not bad enough, almost every decision is made off rhetoric, not data. Our problems are too complex to solve them without knowing what caused them. Or, trying to solve a problem that has been over-simplified or does not exist is more commonplace. Right now, the Department of Defense says not reacting to climate change is a threat to national security. If you take this one step further, then a President who ignores climate change, must also be a threat to national security. Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent piece this week about the holistic problems in Niger, which include the impact climate change has had on desertification. This has caused farmers to lose crops and to invite in ISIS to garner some level of income.This is what a President should consider in his decisions. (Gronda has written an excellent piece on this whose link is below.)

The sad part about the last issue is the President does not show any desire to learn things. We have woeful staff shortages and he has a limited attention span. This is severely crimping our diplomacy abroad, which is much needed. Without such, the President has already elevated the risk with North Korea. Michael Lewis has written about how Obama’s people made transition books and invited the Trump people in to meet. Department by department, very few took them up on this, so this learning curve baton was never passed.

We now need more Republican leaders to remember to whom they swore their oath – it is to the Constitution, not their party or this President. He needs to be censured and he may eventually need to be impeached, if what appears to be true about Russia, in fact is. That is what I believe.

Thomas L. Friedman Connects The Dots Between President Trump And Niger