Tags Posts tagged with "civility"


School Board Elections. METRO photo

Board of education elections should be a time for the community to reflect on how their hard-earned tax dollars are serving a district’s children. Topics such as school security, class sizes, AP classes, sports, the arts, special education services and electives should all be considered when casting your ballot.

Yet, due to the hyperpartisanship of some district boards of education, these items can easily become the furthest thing from voters’ minds.

It’s important to remember that school board members are volunteers. It’s commendable for anyone to put their hat in the ring, subjecting themselves and their families to campaigning and controversies without compensation.

Civility goes a long way. Education of our local children, and decisions relating to what is best for them at school should not be taken lightly. However, there is a way to advocate for and fight for the candidate we think will pursue our children’s best interest without engaging in personal attacks.

It’s important for constituents and candidates alike to remember that the local school board, first and foremost, represents students. In most districts, students frequently attend meetings to receive awards or simply as part of their educational experience. When we go to vote, think about the example of leadership, civil dialogue and intellect the candidates would present during board meetings, and if they are the example we would want our children to see. We should take similar consideration when evaluating campaign tactics.

Our nation has become incredibly divisive. When passionate about issues, it’s easy to want to translate them into all aspects of life, including BOE elections, by voting for the candidate who openly aligns with your politics.

The local coverage of boards of education in the last few years should indicate that the nationalization of school politics only leads to infighting and disruption. Over time, this hostile culture can lead to less and less results for the students, whose interests should be paramount.

This Tuesday, consider the candidates that will keep our kids and tax dollars at the forefront at the top of their plate. You will find candidate profiles in all TBR News Media editions. There will be another day for politics.

Cartoon by Kyle Horne: @kylehorneart

Communities are held together by norms of civility and an overriding spirit of goodwill.

Right now those norms are withering away, supplanted by foul behavior and disrespect. In communities throughout this area, there has been an observable decline in civility, a dangerous trend that jeopardizes the community’s long-term prospects.

At Stony Brook University, members of the campus community have expressed growing concerns about the frequency of hostile encounters taking place in nearby communities. Students and staff members have become targets of scorn and prejudice, a phenomenon that should disturb our residents deeply.

In addition, elected officials and business owners are dismayed by the recent spike in vandalism and destruction of public and private property. Perhaps most alarmingly, police have investigated the July 5 burning of a sign at a Ronkonkoma mosque as a possible hate crime.

While destroying property and desecrating houses of worship surely violates several of our laws, these actions also tear at the fabric of our community. After two years of lockdowns and separation, community members now seem more estranged from one another than ever before. 

The immediate consequence of all of this is that our community is less safe and less congenial than it once was. People will be less likely to spend their time and money in our local downtown areas, creating more vacant storefronts. But in the long run, people may soon flee this area in search of that community feeling that they couldn’t find here. 

Since ancient antiquity, scholars have understood that people of a community cannot be held together by laws alone. Laws create a system of rules and keep communities orderly and regulated, but they cannot inspire neighborliness or tolerance. Aristotle contended that “friendship” was the necessary ingredient for a community to thrive.

We must cultivate the bonds of friendship that once existed among our community members. As citizens of this area, we must recognize that each person is entitled to our respect, regardless of religion, race, ethnic background or politics. 

The people of Long Island are fortunate to have a superb public research institution right in their backyard, a place that offers jobs to our residents and a talented pool of students and staff who are eager to change the world for the better. We must welcome them as our own, deserving of our friendship and respect. We want them to stay right here on Long Island, where they can help us build upon and strengthen this community. 

In a similar vein, we cannot tolerate the destruction of public or private property. Budgets are tight enough in our county, towns and villages, and taxpayers should not be forced to absorb these preventable costs. Moreover, small businesses are struggling enough amid nationwide economic challenges and the ongoing public health emergency. We should not compound their hardships and expenses either.

Progress requires a reassessment and realignment of our system of values. Let’s rediscover what it means to be civil and respectful to one another. Let’s foster that sense of civic friendliness and community cohesion that existed before. We must learn to respect our neighbors again, for without respect this community will not endure. As Aretha Franklin sang, “Just a little bit, a little respect.”

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I read bumper stickers, buttons, fortune cookies and messages on T-shirts. They are a form of poetry that captures a moment, an approach, an attitude, and a message in fewer words than some of the soupier birthday cards.

Like birthday cards, sometimes these messages work, are amusing, evoke a reaction, or make me laugh for intentional and unintentional reasons.

In the modern world, in which so many interactions seem less than optimal or contrary to the intentions, I have some suggested messages that reflect the current state of customer service and civility, or lack thereof.

— Please don’t interrupt. I’m in the middle of looking busy. When I started working many years ago, someone told me to balance between looking busy and being under control. She suggested I walk quickly and purposefully, even if just to the bathroom, to suggest that I’m too busy to tackle something new that might involve lots of administrative work.

— Yes, I am talking to you. Those of you old enough to have seen the Robert De Niro film “Raging Bull” will understand this one instantly. This message captures the prevalence of confrontations.

— I have no idea what’s good. I don’t eat here. Diners often ask waiters and waitresses, “what’s good.” More often than not, they tell people what’s popular dishes or their specials. The subtext here is that some of them don’t, can’t or wouldn’t eat where you’re eating, especially after spending considerable time in the kitchen.

— Everything and nothing is special today. Keeping with the dining theme, while blending in some grade inflation, waiters could provide something philosophical for their diners to consume.

— I believe in building suspense. The assignment, the job, or even the entree may be later than someone wanted. This message could suggest the tardiness was deliberate and was designed to enhance appreciation and add drama. So, you’re welcome.

— Sure, you can ask. I like the buttons people wear at Yankees games that encourage fans to ask a question. On a day when these customer service professionals are feeling tired or hung over, they could don messages that encourage people to move along or to figure out how to drive home to Pennsylvania from the Bronx on their own.

— How can I appear to help you? Life is all about optics. Yes, we should be helping and yes, people are paid to help each other, in person, on phone and on the Internet. Sometimes, the person (or artificial intelligence programs) that is offering assistance isn’t delivering much.

— I brought my own questions, thanks. I would love it if a politician wore this button to a debate. On one level, it could suggest the candidate has questions that are hopefully substantive for his or her opponent. On the other, it could be an honest way of acknowledging the disconnect between a question about the environment and an answer about the person’s commitment to family.

— What can you do for me? This is a way of turning the tables, literally, on a hostile or inappropriate customer. It also discourages people from asking too much of someone who is not eager to deliver.

— Is there anything else I can’t do for you? I’ve been on numerous calls with people who haven’t done anything, particularly when dealing with traveling details, who then ask if there’s anything else they can help me with. When they haven’t helped me with the first question, it’s hard to imagine they can help with a second. A more honest message might suggest that they also anticipate not being able to provide any help with a second problem or question.

— What did you get me for my birthday? People often want, or expect, something, even from strangers, on their birthday. They don’t often consider that the person from whom they expect service, help or extra treatment had a birthday they likely missed.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

When she was little, my daughter loved to build sand castles. She’d put wet sand in a bucket, gently pull the bucket back and marvel at the details in the castles that came out.

My son wasn’t as interested in building castles. He derived special pleasure out of stomping on the castles she made. It wasn’t just that it gave him power over the sand: he also felt power over his older sister, who was furious with him for crushing her castles.

While I tried to reason with him, which is almost as effective today as it was when he was two, I came up with an alternative plan that required additional energy from me, but that created peace on the beach. I’d quickly put together a ring of 15 castles, grabbing wet sand and dumping it several feet from where my daughter was working on her creation.

Like a young Olympic sprinter, my son would race over to the collection of castles and stomp all over them, while my daughter slowly built her own city of sand.

These days, it seems, we are surrounded by people eager to stomp on everyone else’s sandcastles.

Sure, it’s satisfying to feel the figurative sand in our toes and to revel in tearing down what other people have created.

But, really, given all the challenges of the world, I think we should ask a few questions of all those people who are so eager to belittle, attack and undermine others. What’s your solution? What are you doing better? How would you fix the problem?

Insulting others for their efforts, their awkwardness or their perceived flaws often seems like a form of ladderism. No one wants to be on the bottom rung of a ladder, so people try to push others down or to shout to anyone who will listen about how much better they are than the people below them. That seems to be a sign of weakness or insecurity, reflecting the notion that other people are below them.

In addition to dumping on others, we live in a society of people for whom hearing views that differ from their own somehow turns them into victims. Surely we have more choices than simply, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” If someone doesn’t agree with you, maybe it’s worth finding out why.

Anger, frustration and hatred, while they may make us feel slightly better in the moment, aren’t solutions and they don’t improve our world. They are a form of destructive energy, like stomping on sand castles.

We should ask more of ourselves and from our leaders. I’m tired of hearing about politicians who will fight for me. I don’t want to send people into office to fight against others who are trying to do the best they can for the country. I want leaders who will learn, listen and, gasp, reach across the aisle in the search for solutions.

While platforms aren’t as sizzling as slogans or take downs, they include ideas and potential solutions.

Civility makes it possible for us to hear and learn.

We have enough threats to our lives without needing to turn against other people or to give in to the urge to crush other people’s sandcastles to feel better. We don’t all have to be best friends, but it’d be nice to look forward to a holiday season and the start of a new year that focused on a shared sense of purpose. We need better ideas, not better ways to attack.

Photo from Pexels

While many are hoping to return to normal after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, we’re hoping for a return to civility.

Last week a woman we know was attending an outdoor event. Like many, she made sure she put her mask on in the car so she wouldn’t have to fiddle with it at the gate. While walking along the street, with a couple of people in front of her and a few behind, a man in a pickup truck yelled, “Take off your masks.”

Why was this necessary?

On a national level a video, showing actor Ricky Schroder harassing a Costco employee because he asked the actor to wear a mask, has gone viral. Even though the actor later apologized for his behavior, why did he get in the face of someone who was just doing their job?

Why did he feel it was important for him to force his belief system on someone who was just being cautious during a major health crisis?

Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing themselves, except in certain crowded settings and venues, such as when taking public transportation. There is also another caveat, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations apply. This exception also includes local business and workplace guidance.

The new CDC guidelines were adopted by New York State May 19. However, people who are not vaccinated still need to wear masks. Unfortunately, not everyone has the integrity to be honest about not being vaccinated.

As we move forward, there also will be people who, even though they are vaccinated, are still anxious, especially since there is a small chance they can still come down with COVID-19 to some degree. Let them wear their masks without being harassed.

Listen, we understand: No one was prepared to be enlisted to fight in a war against an invisible enemy — a virus that spreads without warning. But we American soldiers this time around weren’t asked to give up our everyday lives to risk those same lives on a battlefield. We were asked to hunker down to decrease the chances of people getting seriously ill, even die, from a new virus. We were asked to live life differently so our hospitals wouldn’t be overcrowded, where patients would have to wait for care, or health care professionals would be put in a position where they would need to decide who to treat.

While many feared our rights would be taken away from us, Americans still have all of their rights intact more than a year later after we were asked to stay home as much as possible and mask up when we left our homes.

It’s a shame that a health crisis had to be made political, making our country even more divisive. It’s time to realize that everyone’s journey has been different during the pandemic, and everyone’s fears during this pandemic varied. Some were fortunate that the virus didn’t touch their lives while others lost loved ones.

Every once in a while it pays to take a step back and consider how others feel, maybe even respectfully ask them where they are coming from in the situation.

We still need to practice patience as we slowly but surely come out of this pandemic, although we may be subject to a new, unsuspected virulent strain. Showing a little respect for others and being a bit kinder never hurts to make things a little more bearable.

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Where people live, conflicts thrive.

It’s inevitable. Get two people in a room for long enough and, eventually, they will find elements about the other person that irritate them. It’s what drives people to watch some reality TV shows. Participants can’t stand each other, they call each other names and, before you know it, someone is screaming at someone else and the viewing audience at home is rubbernecking through the drama.

When it happens to other people, it’s entertainment. When it happens to us, it can hurt.

Why do we care what other people think? We know that some people will find fault with everyone — their mothers, siblings and bosses — making criticism inevitable and, ultimately, meaningless.

If someone stood on the side of the road and yelled “Duck!” often enough, pretty soon people would stop ducking, would stop looking for ducks, and, like so many other noises around them, wouldn’t hear the warning anymore.

And yet, when someone we know or even someone we’ve recently met indicates a disdain for us, scowls at our presence, or undermines our abilities, intelligence or effort, we feel cut to the quick. That person might just be repeating the same criticisms to us that he or she levies at everyone all the time.

It’s like a fortune cookie. We read something that says, “You need to think twice before taking advice.” Wow, we think, how incredibly insightful, even as we ignore the irony that we are taking advice from a small slip of paper crushed into a Pac-Man shaped cookie. Someone recently gave me advice that seems valuable, like quitting a job I hate, but maybe that person just wants to take my job or doesn’t want to hear me complaining. Maybe that advice doesn’t really apply to me after all.

The same holds true for insults, criticism and nastiness. It could apply to us or it could just be fortune cookie nastiness, conjured up by someone who may not enjoy the life he or she leads, trying to make everyone as miserable as them.

Insults are ubiquitous. Much of the time, however, the insult is an opinion, not a fact. There are times when an admonishment such as “You weren’t driving well” is accurate, particularly if you were driving the wrong way on a one-way street.

We don’t immediately imagine the person doing the insulting might be sharing an opinion about us that we would almost instantly dismiss if it were about our spouse, our children, our parents or our close friends. We think, “Maybe I am terrible at this,” or “Maybe I should be embarrassed.”

People make puppets, write stories about fictional characters, draw cartoons and imaginary figures because they want to control something.

But just because they want control doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. Even assuming someone doesn’t like you, your appearance or your ideas, so what? Our preferences are so subjective that we can’t or shouldn’t try to please everyone.

We don’t have to play those reindeer games. We can disagree and express our opinions without attacking someone else. We follow whatever rules we set for ourselves and don’t need to fight fire with fire, hit back 10 times harder or show that we mean business. We can be more graceful than our detractors.

When someone attacks us, we don’t have to act as if we’re wearing a target. We can look at that person, put a slow smile on our face and say, “It’s too bad you feel that way. Maybe a good fortune cookie would cheer you up?”