Thoughts on Communications & Civility

The explosive growth of social media is a phenomenon of our times. The impact is far-reaching and an interesting look at our society. Thee Nextdoor platform is one example of neighbors arguing about local politics, masking, chip seal techniques on our streets. I fear some post comments to get under another’s skin; they may not even believe what they have posted—plain mean people.

Social media has also “outted” those “Karens” and “Chads” of the world who appoint themselves to correct the perceived wrongdoings of others. I’m afraid we are becoming less civil every day.

These platforms can be excellent tools for local clubs, civic organizations, schools and communities to promote the common good. Nonprofits can benefit as well by sharing their mission, seeking volunteers and support. Newcomers to a community benefit from getting recommendations from others about a variety of services and providers. I suggest these are all examples of civility.

Human nature, being what it is, makes it difficult not to comment on posts that are contrary to one’s own beliefs. By taking a few minutes and thinking if comments are warranted, then taking the time to structure carefully worded comments, good communication and civility can prevail.

That’s 30, what is your opinion?

Domestic threats of more violence

What does it say about our country when the Department of Homeland Security issues an Advisory Bulletin regarding a “hightened threat environment across the United States”? According to DHS, these “violent extremeists” could well be a neighbor, someone who believes the election was stolen. One of the concerns is that there could be mobilization or plans to incite or commit violence, much like what we saw on January 6th. A day we will all remember.

I believe that many of these radical thinkers continue to feed off the false narratives of politicians who are continuing to stir up the former Presidents’ base. I see them as opportunists, not the public servants they were elected to be.

What can you and I do about this? Well, if we can help tone down the rhetoric, listen to what others have to say, and try to understand their position. As an individual, I will not change the mind of someone who believes in these radical accusations. However, demonstrating civility towards others can be contagious. Perhaps more contagious than Covid-19. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Let’s hope this threat of violence is a wake-up call for “We the people.”

…that’s30. What are your thoughts?

Healing relationships.

I recently read an interesting article by Ambassador Allan Katz, CEO of American Public Square. He wrote the following:

So, I want to propose an idea to every person reading this column: If you voted for President Donald Trump, find someone who voted for President-elect Joe Biden. If you voted for Biden, find someone who voted for Trump. Engage them in a real conversation to understand why they did what they did. Don’t judge them because of their choice. Understand that they did what they did for reasons that they thought were right for the nation, as well as for themselves. Begin to listen to what they are saying; seek to understand their perspective. You need neither change your mind nor try to change theirs — that isn’t the point. Try to build a trusting relationship. It isn’t easy, but it can happen. I have successfully tried this myself, so I speak from experience.

Amb. Allan Katz

Now that the election is over, I suspect many of us know someone who did not have the same beliefs about who should be elected. It could be a relative, and the holidays may well present an opportunity for some relationship healing. Listening and understanding another’s opinions does not come naturally for me, so I’m asking my family and friends to call me on this if they feel I’m not listening.

Understanding others is one of the reasons I started this blog; let the discourse begin.

…that’s 30, if your are listening.

Thoughts of an Independent Voter

I have always been proud that I’m an Independent Voter and not part of either party. While I will admit, I lean one way or the other at times; I prefer to cast my vote for the candidate or issue that squares with my conscience. As hard as I might try, being a moderate right now is hard.

We live in a time when politics are driving personal relationships, and that I find is unacceptable. I have friends and family that I genuinely care about who are “hard right” and “hard left.” Where are the other Moderates? What has happened to common sense and the common good?

As we rapidly approach the general election, I am as concerned about the local races as I am the national. Those elected to serve our schools, cities, counties, and states will pass legislation that will impact our daily lives. In the past have voted a split ticket, and I will continue to vote for the person I believe will get the job done regardless of party.

Those serving in Congress and the White House must find ways to resolve the partisan politics tearing our country apart. Those in leadership are not working together to meet our countries needs. Wonder what would happen if there was a robust Independent candidate? A moderate who would work both sides of the aisle.

…that’s 30 today. And DON’T FORGET TO VOTE.

Public Comment Agendas

We continue our dialog of the growth of Public Agenda session at local government meetings. In this post, longtime Kansas Educator Harold Frye offers his observation.


Public Input at local government meetings.

Civility and the need to be civil extend beyond city and county boards as we are in the midst of this pandemic and its impact on our communities. I spent 19 years as a school district administrator charged with providing advice to citizens elected to represent their neighbors on school boards. Now we are seeing special interest groups plead their cases to school boards regarding whether schools are open or closed, whether sports continue or are delayed, whether kids can learn as well online as in person. Most school board members come to the position with a goal to improve their communities. None expected to face attacks from those who elected them. In one school district, it was my job to engage “public relations.” Almost nothing positive happening in the schools gained the attention of the media. Only the negative slod the news. In those days, the major newspaper’s advertisers were real estate and automobiles. Therefore, painting the city schools bad helped advertisers sell more houses in the suburbs and cars to get folks there. The culture is far greater than civility alone.


What are your thoughts?.. That’s 30 for Today.

Local Government & Public Agendas

During this pandemic, local governing bodies are on the publics’ hot seat more than ever before. With today’s technology, we can watch the city council and county commission meetings live. I find the public comment sessions most telling about the emotions of those who come to the podium. It is especially evident when the subject matter is masks, lockdowns, or school closures.

Fellow citizens, well-intended as they are, voice opinions based on gossip, social media, and articles they have researched. They speak of medical journal articles they have read and hold to be the final word, despite the testimony of medical experts earlier in the same meeting. Some cite media articles as evidence for their position.

These most vocal citizens gain the attention of those elected officials up for reelection this fall. They are politicians and may fall into the trap that the most vocal speak for the broader community. After watching many of these sessions, I believe they represent only themselves and maybe a few others.

Media coverage of these meetings tends to focus on the drama and outrageous statements. Some feel costumes will help their cause. Today, one woman upset with the commission found it necessary to conclude her comments by saying she recently took firearms training and purchased a gun. I believe this kind of rhetoric is harmful to our community relations.

Our society seems to be in a frenzy as we are facing issues previously unknown to our country. It’s left versus right, urban versus rural, and rich versus poor. Again, I’m, praying for a return to civility.

…that’s 30 for today. Stay safe.

In Search of Civility and Kindness

I find it very interesting how family members and friends can have such strong and opposite opinions regarding elections. The tone, meaning of many comments are nothing more than cruel. Perhaps its social media and our rush to comment on a post that moves us one way or another.

We see family members who practically assail each other over a candidate, an issue, or a movement. People feeding off doomsday comments while others seem to be goading or attempting humor.

I’d love to see more kindness, civil discussion, and respect for what others think, say, and feel. I’m asking my family, friends, and contacts to help each other practice kindness as we near the general election. Will you join in?

…that’s 30 for now.

Prepositions at the Polls

Adam Ehlert shares his experience as a Poll Worker in the August 4th Primary

Prepositions at the Polls

With significant apologies to Honest Abe, I had three prepositions running though my brain all day: of, by and for.  “…That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

I had volunteered to be a Primary Day poll worker.  I’m not sure if I would fit into any of those prepositions that are so apt.  But I kept trying to figure out the proper placement for each player as I slogged through the 14-hour day.  

The for is pretty easy.  We The People are our own self-governed subjects.  We are in control of our government, and per our Constitution, have the ability to protect ourselves from tyranny.

The of is well down a slippery slope.  Our supposed citizen-legislature has turned into a professional ruling (pardon me—elected!) class.  If you’re one providing our governance, you’re in pretty good shape. 

I guess that makes my election-day cog a by (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  I am grateful that we are afforded the opportunity to dig in, to touch, to feel, and stick our arms in the sausage casings.  But at times it was almost that gross. 

In the small, suburban/rural-ish precinct that I and my four fellow co-workers worked, we processed just under 400 Primary voters.    Each and every citizen was allowed to exercise that right, and I am very proud to say that Johnson County, Kansas runs an election like a well-oiled machine (pun not intended).  The Election Office’s mantra is that “poll workers are: Professional, Orderly and Organized, and Courteous.” 

We had precious few surprises, and ever fewer problems.  The biggest was when, after fully being set up for the 7:00 opening bell, the voting machines had gone back to sleep.  Literally.  We began processing paper ballots for the dozen at the door, while our Supervising Official was on the phone with HQ.  Yes—they had gone back to sleep.  We had to use a flashlight (appropriately provided in all the supplies and manuals), to shine into the machines’ scanners, thereby bringing them back to function.  The smelling salts were apparently sent to another precinct….  In The Office’s defense, I think this was brought on by over-preparation.  We set up starting at 5:30—owing to anticipated large turnout—and that was 30 minutes earlier than usual.  The machines grew weary of their dormancy. 

We were prepared, and the system worked.  Especially in the Age of Covid.  The process was touchless (if of course none of the workers took short cuts, and of course if all the voters followed all instructions). 

There was some skepticism.  Two voters separately justified their request for a paper ballot.  There is no need to explain the logic, but one offered that he “wanted to make sure there was a paper trail.”  The other went out of his way to ensure we did not have an electronic paper trail as he winked his way to the secret carrels. 

More than a few voters cawed at the government-provided and virus-free pen/stylus, which was to ensure a touchless process.  Several closely inspected the swag for a “Made In _ _ _ _ _” sticker.”  “We already paid for it anyway, huh?” 

As we packed up equipment and reconciled reports, I remained thankful for our free and open process. 

And now a day after, I’m also glad for Will Rogers’ aphorism to “Be thankful that we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” 

…that’s 30 for today.

The Next 100 Days

In about 100 days, our country will have a general election. Between now and then, we will be force-fed political ads, news conferences, and generally contentious spin. Our mailboxes will be full of candidate flyers. I am already tired of it, and it’s just begun.

Thinking about these next 100 days, I wonder how we will treat each other when it is over? I genuinely believe we are all weary of the pandemic, the protests, and finger-pointing. Should the election turn out to be the opposite of the way I would like it, can I accept and support the majority? (Or Electoral College)

What can we do individually to prepare for whatever the outcome is? How will we act?

…that’s 30 for today.

EMPATHY

We are please to post an essay by Adam Ehlert, Past District Governor of Rotary International, and the recent author of: Atrial Frustration, a Cardiac Arrythmia Saga, which debuted as Amazon’s #1 New Release in Cardiology. 

We are please to add an essay about Empathy, written by Adam Elhert, Past District Governor in Rotary International, and the recent author of: Atrial Frustration, a Cardiac Arrythmia Saga, which debuted as Amazon’s #1 New Release in Cardiology.”

Why has our society become so decidedly un-civil? 

Politics, of course, seems to drive it all.  And that is surprising, considering how much disdain we all seem to have for all in office.  Any office.  At the most basic statistic, Congress has not had the approval of even one-third of Americans in more than a decade.  The much-maligned “Dogcatcher” position is better-received. 

So, if we near-universally seem to despise politics (two-thirds for sure, anyway), why has our public discourse been so “dragged”—in the parlance of the day—by the nonsense of their realm? 

Is it train-wreck voyeurism?  Good old schadenfreude?  Do we need dopamine doses from lamenting legislative inanities?  Are we trying to fit in by following the herd, piling-on the momentarily weak and defenseless?   Why the wedge? 

While not a good-government “Goo-Goo” optimist like my favorite high school teacher, I do believe that people—as people—strive to join, to heal, to uplift, to share, to be good, to do good, to see good (in all!), to take care, and to uphold, eagerly, the Golden Rule.  All without the implicit or wet-ink weight of Congressional blessing. 

Mankind has survived via a special kind of collectivism—especially in a free, open and self-governed society.  We have survived by not mutually-destructing.  So why do we seem hell-bent on it, now, at least rhetorically?  Why, again, the wedge? 

Why is a philosophical difference now the basis to declare one’s neighbor a mortal enemy?  Literally. 

I think we have forgotten to empathize with our neighbors.  That pure, basic, human emotion of kindness and understanding. 

We should not hate our neighbor because of a yard sign or a bumper sticker.  As Tom Lehrer ironically opined decades ago: “I know there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!”  We don’t all have to agree…but in today’s age we sure shouldn’t hate.  In fact, our great country of freedom was built upon the concept of dissidence.  Civil dissidence, of discourse, anyway. 

My suggestion for a quick recalibration via other-shoe perspective?  Take those steps through a hospital.  That’s it. 

You don’t need to be intrusive.  Just mildly observant.  You will see your brothers and sisters in all stages of humanity—relief, worry, unease, curiosity, frustration-borne-of-bureaucracy…and soul-challenging faith.  And while they may deal with it differently from you and from me, we all will share a host of human emotions throughout our lifetimes. 

Let’s try to be understanding.  Let’s empathize.  Let’s be civil. 


…that’s 30 for today. What are your thoughts? Submit a comment or article.