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Civility is Always the Right Choice

Reflections on January 7, 2021 -- the day after.

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You can’t be a writer and not right something today. January 7, 2021. The day after our country almost melted down into utter chaos and irrational anarchy. 24 hours to absorb and reflect and let the anger be processed into productive thought. I’m ready.

In reflecting on the message I wanted to give, I knew it had nothing to do with politics. Nothing to do with conservatism, liberalism, rhinoism, populism, or any “ism” whatsoever. It had to do with civility.

President John Kennedy perhaps said it best when he said, “So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof…” As part of the social compact we humans have implicitly agreed to, we function in society in an exchange of rights and responsibilities for the benefit of all of us as citizens of a civilization. Without civility, civilization collapses. Without civilization, we are reduced to our most primal instincts, fears, and aggressions as each individual seeks only its own survival. Problem solving through combat. Jungle mentality. Survival of the fittest, the rest be damned. Does that sound familiar? If you’ve been paying attention, it should.

America is the great experiment. The “shining city on the hill” who welcomes all, whose citizens make up that great “melting pot” of various nationalities, religions and cultural backgrounds. We all bring something different and unique, and together that makes us strong. With this diversity, of course, comes differences of opinions and values and priorities. That should come as no surprise. We are not a theocracy. Most Americans probably have the common goal of valuing the general common good of happiness, prosperity, security, etc., but with different opinions of how that is best achieved. That should surprise no one and cause no rational person any fear or discomfort. That is the beauty of our form of government, that we seek “checks and balances”, and that those who represent us govern with authority that comes from “the consent of the governed.”

Civility means that we have processes in place to express ourselves, to make our voices heard, to try and effect change. Sometimes those who agree with us are in the majority, sometimes not. The ebb and flow of opinions is part of the democratic process. Force and violence, however, are not part of the accepted processes. Four Americans who lived at this time yesterday, do not live today because many did not understand this rational principle. Lack of civility hurts not just countries, but also damages businesses, families, and relationships of every sort. When lack of civility is combined with a mob mentality, it is deadly.

So, fellow Americans, regardless of your political party, regardless of whatever “ism” you subscribe to, let today be the day we all make the personal pledge to remain civil as we navigate the days and months ahead in this new year. Former President George W. Bush stated, “Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.”

Praying that today, and everyday forward, we choose this path – for our individual sakes, yes, but more importantly to our posterity, for the sake of America, the land we all call home.

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