Aging in Our Community A Message from W. Mark Clark, President and CEO
others think and feel lays the groundwork for compromise when we disagree. #3. Realize that all our futures are tied together. No matter how strongly we might disagree with the beliefs and actions of some of our fellow Americans, we live in the same communities, frequent the same businesses, attend the same community centers and places of worship, go to the same hospitals, and live under the same laws of the land. Each of us has a vested interest in strengthening each of these institutions – though we may have deeply differing ideas about what that means and how to accomplish it. Viewing those with whom we disagree as our enemies, rather than the distance between our own beliefs and those of others as a potential space for understanding and compromise, rarely results in improvement and only deepens the divide. As I look around for leadership, it seems divisive and rancorous behavior has become more commonplace in our leaders at every level of government and business, making it more acceptable for others in society to follow suit. And yet, every one of us still has a choice about what we will accept from those leaders, and how we choose to act in our own lives. Perhaps more of us choosing greater respect and compassion for others can help turn the tide of division toward a more healthy and unified society.
Civility in Uncivil Times In a society that is by most accounts more divided than ever before, it feels like just about everything these days is framed as “us” versus “them.” Making sure the other side doesn’t win so often seems more important than finding a way forward, on a variety of critical issues. No matter what each of our political leanings or personal beliefs might be, for all our sakes, I hope we can soon find a way to come to some middle ground. Those who benefit from this division, and there certainly are those, are unlikely to call for a more reasoned approach or a return to civility, and so it falls upon us, as members of this society, to choose to reject inflammatory rhetoric and resist the urge to demonize those who don’t share our beliefs. Make no mistake, I am not calling for compromise to our core beliefs or commitment to the issues that matter to each of us. There are boundaries beyond which civility should not extend. In my world view, every person has an equal right to personal freedoms, respect, and opportunity. As such, I have no acceptance of racist, ageist, misogynist, xenophobic or otherwise discriminatory beliefs that seek to elevate one set of humanity above another. But the distance between extremist beliefs I personally know to be deeply and intentionally harmful, and moderate differences of opinion, is substantial. And yet, all issues seem too often to be painted by both politicians and the media with the same sensationalist brush. Those with whom we disagree are all around us, and they’re here to stay. So, how do we move forward and lift
ourselves from the mire of the us-versus- them mentality that has become so predominant? It seems that many of us are seeking answers to this dilemma. In late 2020, the Civil Society Fellowship, a part of the Aspen Institute, held a nationwide town hall of fellows and guests, with the goal of helping America “become a place that lives up to its ideals.” The results are three recommended steps we can all take to create a more civil society: #1. Find the good in others. “You build a good civil society by becoming good neighbors to one another,” said DeAmon Harges, an advocate of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Certainly, the idea of being neighborly is central to the work we do here at PCOA, and is an important tenet to me personally. When we see our neighbors being good parents, caring for older family members, or lending a hand to help out a fellow neighbor, it becomes much more difficult to dismiss them out of hand when a particular political sign goes up in their yard or bumper sticker appears on their vehicle. That single additional piece of information doesn’t negate everything positive we know about them. #2. Discover what we have in common. Too often, we seem to forget there are people beneath the identity we perceive them to have. People who belong to a particular political party, age group, cultural group, socioeconomic class or any other classification may share a few characteristics, but are by no means homogeneous. Our shared humanity, love of family, need for security, and many other factors mean we’re likely to find commonality with most people – and deepening our understanding of how
W. Mark Clark President & CEO
August 2022, Never Too Late | Page 3
Pima Council on Aging
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