Most Americans have a heartfelt need for a united sense of community, yet this country is undergoing serious splintering that threatens, not only relationships, but also politics and society as whole. Communication and dialogue now get lost in the fog of impulsive reactions and prejudices and turns into name-calling and castigating. People retreat into silos with people of like views, away from ‘elites’, ’deplorables’ or others with different perspectives.
Unfortunately, the last time people visibly came together as one was after the 9/11 crisis. Politics, philosophy, ethnic or racial makeup were forgotten, and people came together simply as Americans.
Civility and coming together rests in our hands – not the government's hands, political parties, or special-interest groups. We can change things and it doesn't take an act of Congress. If we, as individuals, were more civil to each other, we would ease the disrespectful banter, sarcasm, and bullying one person at a time.
New Year’s resolutions may be the answer! Citizen resolve can have large effects that create small tipping points with big impact. Small changes can make major changes and it does not cost a cent. What we need is to make New Years’ resolutions about civility. It is simple!
I hereby resolve to be more civil at home, work, and in my neighborhood. I will stop labeling people, name-calling, and stereotyping them.
I resolve to listen actively to others, to comprehend the content and intent of their communications. I will try to understand the reasons for their convictions and not label them with an "ist" epithet.
I resolve to try to make distinctions between truth, opinions, hearsay, and beliefs in my statements and those of others.
I resolve to work with those who disagree with me to find common ground, and if we can't, to respect them as fellow citizens. There is no right in the Constitution that I should always be right, but it is their right to disagree with me.
I resolve to apply principles evenly with those who agree or disagree with me. I will not condemn rivals and excuse the abuse of the principle by those who agree with me.
I resolve to exercise self-control and stop “enemyfying” others. They are not enemies, just fellow citizens with different viewpoints. Acting in anger and nullifying others as equals is not respectful of their humanity or citizenship. After all, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, who both had different philosophies on constitutional interpretation, were good friends.
I resolve to think for myself and not sheepishly go along with the crowd. As a corollary, I resolve to be the wolf howling in the wilderness and take stands in an honorable way to exercise my moral authority as an individual citizen.
Finally, I might resolve to be like my nine-year-old granddaughter, Julia, and be “nice to others, and don’t bully and call people names.” That just about covers it all.
Constant harping and name-calling, along with political fiascoes and campaigning have worn us out. It's time for a fresh start. New Year's is around the corner. Beyond dieting, stopping smoking, or exercising more, let’s also make a resolution this year to be civil!