Monday, July 21, 2008


"Yes, I've taken a stand, and my peers who took the other position will fall into their customary tactic of name calling, put downs, and attempting to falsely associate my actions to other parties that are independent of myself and make their own sovereign decisions. These shameful schoolyard, childish maneuvers have no place in our [organization, town, city, state, nation, world].

"As they may seem unable to limit or control their bitterness, meanness and thinly veiled violence by words, I ask everyone to help place a cushion of concern around them and what they say.

"Let them speak. Finish what they have to say. And, by not agreeing nor disagreeing with their content, point out the wickedness of their manners. Show up the attacks, list them. Then remind them of the affirming choices they have the option to make to remain constructive members of our common community.

"I caution myself, and those who work to sustain a working common area where we speak and talk as mature adults, that finding support among enough of us to discourage this behavior will take time. We ourselves will become the focus of a full load of their venom, that's for certain.

"Prepare yourself, know what you intend, and stick to the issue of etiquette and manners.

"I suspect this tragic pattern developed when we learned two behaviors in our youth. One, under the watchful eyes of our parents, teachers, coaches, and other responsible adults, taught us polite behaviors. If we were well raised, we learned how to disagree without being destructive or disagreeable.

"The other, out of sight of adults, had very few limits. Those behaviors unleashed our meanest sides as we teased, scratched, kicked and otherwise fought each other seeking to dominate one another. Over time, as the rest of us fell silent and watched, the remaining children seeking dominance kept fighting each other.

"We left childhood with a split personality. Now we see the price we paid, the majority of us who fell silent, for our withdrawal. Our space in the middle where we ought to be able to come and talk as peers and respectful equals is soured over with behavior no kindergarten teacher would tolerate for a moment.

"As we grew older, then it appears we have allowed our tolerated social behaviors to grow younger. As 'up we grew down we forgot,' to quote ee cummings.

"Unlike the notion in physics that nothing stops unless acted upon by an outside force, in our human world we can apply brakes by acting from an inside force. You and I know our feelings, we can not let our capacity to uphold a workable public zone be allowed to drift without someone minding the rudder. Indeed, we can step up to the helm and within ourselves, as a first step, commit to support positive public discussion of controversial views. We can make it known in advance by letter and when offered a chance on the media channels that we look forward to counting the positive ways things can be discussed. We will note the negative manners that are a throwback into immature schoolyard tactics.

"Once you have that first inner decisiveness to uphold a positive common arena, look to find another that shares that hope. Find a small action to begin with and experiment.

"This is vital community work. The space where we come to debate and decide we hold in sacred trust. We seldom speak of it in those terms, but consider that no one person "owns" it, and when it we honor and protect it we receive in return mutual acknowledgment and support for participation.

"We know the rules: lets list them and abide by them:
  • Attack the problem not the person.
  • No putdowns.
  • No disrepecting.
  • No personal attacks."

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