We’re Being Called To Come To Our Own Rescue
There’s been a cacophony of raised voices in recent days, and too many are unpleasant. Political adversaries, tribalism, partisan rancor, extremist media punditry. Hair-trigger responses to real or perceived slights, because we too often act and speak before thinking. An increasing lack of civility, mutual respect, respect for authority and common courtesy. Seemingly lost arts, but only if we default to our worst instincts. Let’s not. Like the simmering frog, we got ourselves into this mess incrementally. I have great confidence that we can regain a healthier and less stressful community ambience, TOGETHER. Let’s consider.
A Matter of Emphasis and Volume
At any time, there are good people and model programs doing great things to improve the lives of folks and their communities. We know them, many of us are fortunate to be among those who staff or volunteer for significant community programs. But these good works are too often overshadowed or outshouted by those whose noise surpasses their own success. And the media air gets sucked out by the negative, and the good gets unrecognized and goes unrewarded. We The People can moderate or eliminate this toxic community atmosphere by filling our chalice much more than half full of positive, substantive achievements…and widely celebrating and promoting them. Help me consider a large-scale human and humane response.
Where The People Are Gathered
My community organization experience taught me the importance of going where the people are, and leveraging success by working under the communal umbrellas where the most folks are gathered. I quickly learned that those groups include major employers, faith-based organizations, AISD, colleges and universities, non-profits, civic groups, Chambers of Commerce, City, County and State government and related agencies. If we’re interested in promoting civility, common courtesy, mutual respect, constructive civic engagement, personal responsibility and thoughtful dispute resolution, these are key places to start.
What Might We Expect?
I’ve long-since learned to avoid the often presumptuous mistake of creating “one size fits all” templates for a diversity of organizational cultures. Better to come armed with suggestions to prompt constructive discussions, but let the various creative talents create the best approach for their unique circumstances. Our goal is a better appreciation and practice of civility, mutual respect and creative dispute resolution, with an overlay of kindness, compassion and good humor.
We want organizational leaders to work within their spheres of influence to create healthy environments for human interaction. And to design, implement and test the effectiveness of their efforts. Through live presentations, focus groups, appointed committees, role-playing, newsletters and other means of in-house communication. With appropriate feedback processes to measure initiative success. Multi-platform support materials can be developed as desired. Here is a nice response to Austin’s Trinity School effort to elevate core values.
How Do We Get Started?
As usual, it starts with our friend in the mirror. With our personal civic engagement audit as to our family, neighborhood, faith-based affiliation, employer or any other relationship where we could positively impact healthy values…respecting diversity and other’s personal preferences. This might even force us to take the initiative to meet the new folks down the street who obviously come from different backgrounds.
I’d call on members of Leadership Austin, the Annette Strauss Institute, The United Way, our Chambers of Commerce, corporate councils, schools at all levels, the LBJ School, media reps, KLRU/KUT and faith-based leaders to be among those invited to various community tables, to consider how we might design and implement programs to rein in the divisive rhetoric and elevate a majority of voices for good. What a nice thought! We can choose to do that. Let’s do.
A MOSEY CLOSE
We’re tired of the fear-mongering, divisive rhetoric and incivility that typifies too much of our national discourse. It brings out the worse in us, and our children are listening and will emulate if not taught better. We know better, want better and are certainly capable of better. Let’s enlist our Better Angels to help us figure out how to take the generosity and kindness of the holidays and be role models for better in the New Year.
You friends and readers are some of the best folks in the world, with considerable positive community service reflected in your mirrors. But, we need each other more than ever, our communities and Country need us pulling together. Let’s demonstrate that civility and kindness are not signs of weakness. Those acts strengthen us and our communities. And our children are listening, watching and learning. Incentive enough? LET’S MOSEY!