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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 7 months ago

Letter: Civil Discourse is a call to action

Linda Williams, one of Civil Discourse's founders, talks about coming together as a community before the 2020 elections.
by: Guest Writer

Dear editor,

Perhaps the days of arguing and fomenting are coming to an apex, as we humans discover, hopefully with some degree of humility, how little we do know about how everything works.  Perhaps the one certainty is change, itself.

Following our last local election — which was very contentious, with enough mud-slinging for all to get dirtied up — the social worker in me realized that this is not getting us anywhere as a community.  Lots of money was spent and time consumed in proving the other side wrong. I don’t doubt the same will occur again in the 2020 election season, on all levels of government: city, county, state and national.  

However, there is a movement afoot toward engagement among citizens who want to study and discuss the issues themselves, not just along party lines, and find mutually agreeable solutions.  If “we the people” do our work before the upcoming elections when the conflicting solutions are aired in the political arena, the error won’t be, "we didn’t know," but, we cared more about winning than finding solutions.  We can hold accountable those running for the right to make important decisions for us prior to the election by asking them what they stand for, and not letting them get by with just being against something or someone, but for something.

I think we are experiencing a crisis of community. A divided community does not prosper or sustain itself.  The crisis is a struggle between opposing ideas, rather than a dialogue or discussion.  There are probably a lot of linking ideas, core ideas that join us, rather than divide us — creative ideas that elevate all, not destroy others and their rights, in the process.   

Can we engage in a cooperative, mutually enhancing relationship with those in our community?  This will require creative engagement with one another, which is the challenge of civil discourse and the personal challenge for me.  How to get there from here and where is "there?' Perhaps the challenge is being where we are, with great humility and honesty, not with hubris, and beginning to communicate that with each other and then really listening.

During 2019, Civil Discourse in Ormond Beach has been a forum for local civic issues between citizens, guests, and panel members.  This has included public officials, Ormond Beach City Commissioners, city, county and state level staff, along with private individuals with expertise on the subject matter.  We will continue into 2020, meeting in the Ormond Beach Public Library the fourth Monday of each month.  The topic of discussion in the most recent series has been “smart growth, what the heck is it and how does it affect me”?  We need your input and opposing views so that we can move in the direction of an informed citizenry and creative solutions.

The next Civil Discourse is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 27.

Linda Williams

Ormond Beach

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