Whether we voted in this election as a conservative, moderate, liberal or libertarian — we are all Americans, Washingtonians and Whidbey-Islanders.
We are neighbors. Our country’s founders believed that a diversity of opinions would make us stronger and help us form “a more perfect union.”
And hearing and understanding one another across political divides make it possible for us to work together on problems that affect us all.
Over the last several decades Americans have become increasingly polarized. And so, while the midterm elections are over, the work of healing political rifts in our families, communities and country continues.
Part of the reason our country is so at odds is that we have failed to listen to one another. While it is tempting to blame politicians on both sides of the aisle for the rising tide of polarization, the truth is, most of us are part of the problem.
Many of us have become a little too comfortable making disparaging remarks, name-calling and demonizing those with whom we disagree.
How we respond to this election matters. If your candidate won, congratulations. However, having genuine empathy for those whose candidate lost can keep us from gloating and condescending, which only exacerbate polarization. And if your candidate lost you can also help heal political rifts by resisting the impulse to blame and accepting the loss with grace.
Restraining impulses for the sake of unity does not mean abandoning or denying our values.
Standing up for what we believe is a quintessential part of being American and is why the founders made sure to protect our rights to free speech and protest.
However, those with whom we differ are more likely to listen, understand and respect our concerns when we present them civilly.
Yet despite the rising tide of national incivility, on Whidbey Island, we remain a basically civil and empathetic people. This week we saw a man wait to open a heavy door for an elderly woman and watched a woman at a drive-through kiosk buy coffee for a stranger. Neither of these thoughtful people asked the person they were befriending who they were voting for before being kind.
In order to highlight civility during this year’s election cycle, Sno-Isle Libraries and Civility First designated October as “Civility Month.” We offered civility workshops in all Island County libraries and held a forum on Civility and Citizenship that featured state Rep. Norma Smith and Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson.
There were mayoral decrees, civility book lists, book displays, civility story hours and an art and photography contest titled, “Capturing a Moment of Civility in Your Community.”
Please join us in our commitment to finding ways through our current discord. By making civil responses to this year’s election results each of us can help reduce the polarization, strengthen our communities and preserve our island’s traditions of neighborliness and respect.
Board of directors
Civility First … So We Can Work Together
Kate Bracy, Tom Ewell, Charlotte Fairfield, Alice O’Grady, Sandi Peterson, Cathy Whitmire and Gary Wray