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Don’t sit this New Year out

Don’t sit this New Year out Don’t sit this New Year out

It is the time of year we customarily look back over the past months and evaluate the happenings. Most of us would say, “Wow; we have just lived through crazy times.” It seems as though we witnessed a new crisis, or at least an unexpected revelation, nearly every day. The whole world was hopping and not all of it in a positive direction. To be more precise, many would say, “Thank goodness for bye-bye to 2019.”

Now, with the normal expectation of new beginnings, we ponder our resolutions to make things better.

Each year on Jan. 1, I declare I am going to shape up. But, come December, I am still the same old person I was 12 months earlier. It is obvious my resolutions need to be more effective. Perhaps, I need to join a nationwide common resolution movement.

After pondering the greatest change we need to make as a country, I have decided we could use an adjustment to the manner in which we interact daily with each other. Our country is feeling the ill effects of name calling, judgmental personal attacks and fear mongering. Couldn’t we benefit by discussing issues and conditions without attacking people? There certainly is a need to separate the two in my mind.

While at gatherings during the holidays, I was aware that there seemed to be two different kinds of conversations going on. One strain were those ranting about the character of folks who disagreed with their positions or actions. The other avoided all talk of current issues and ideas for fear of offending those with whom they talked. It seems to me that both of those extremes are dangerous routes to take.

By personalizing attacks on those who hold different beliefs, we destroy the chance to discuss, compromise and work together with others. Who feels they can trust or respect someone who has just vilified them? It isn’t very productive to cast others as adversaries when we are on the same team.

When someone or some group labels us as stupid or evil, we want to fight back. It is a basic human-animal survival response. Belittling others does not bring out the best in anyone. Rather, as the Quakers say, speak to the godly in others. In other words, bring the best out in the other person by non-threatening words and positive ideas and actions.

Another theory says, when trying to change someone’s mind, don’t accuse them of acting badly. Rather say, “I feel such and such a way when you address me in a certain manner.” We can avoid a whole lot of conflict with sensitive and respectful language.

It goes the other way, too. Don’t take personally everything that is said. Folks going through tough times may speak in harsh terms. Best to think “they have a problem and are not chastising me.” Being on the defensive is not comfortable and certainly not very productive.

The attempt to avoid conflict by not acknowledging problems or issues is a dead-end street for a democracy. Our society is based on including everyone in decision-making and participation. If we all steer clear of controversial discussion, we leave our future in the hands of autocrats who will think and act for us according to their own wants and beliefs. Our U.S. constitution was framed believing that all people matter and need to be heard and treated equally and fairly.

As adults, we set the stage for what the kids of today will feel is appropriate participation for them when they grow up. Talking in terms of ideas instead of judging the actions of others leads to a richer life. Gossip usually concerns other people’s daily lives. Good discussion usually addresses happenings and ideas. We all know the difference between commenting on the personal habits of individuals as opposed to talking about the systems that exist in our communities that should address human needs.

This new year, let us step up to the plate and analyze complicated conditions like health care, infrastructure, political policy and climate change. This involves reading, listening, talking and taking a stand.

This is a big election year in our country. Yes, there are different ways of looking at the issues. Best each of us crank up our brains and hearts and take an active part in forming the public conversation about candidates’ ideas and proposals. As much as possible, we need to think positively about different ideas and people and try to see what makes us stronger when we work together.

We are, indeed, all different. Bravo for that! Robots are a boring bunch. So, why should we be surprised when we approach changing and complex issues from differing and sometimes conflicting positions?

In light of the escalating tensions in the Middle East, we are reminded of the necessity of the wise use of diplomacy in communications between countries. We need the brightest minds with knowledge of the complexity of international relations to send messages of reconciliation between leaders who often don’t like or agree with each other. Nothing is simple. Everything is interwoven.

So, don’t sit this new year out. Find your strong diplomatic voice and help us rebuild the United States of America.

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