Why We Raindrops Are Needed for a Storm of Civility

My son Will Sharpe brought the attached story to my attention: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/state-of-conflict.  It does feel as if our lives are under siege from the far right.  Reading this reminds me of the importance of: “nevertheless, she persisted.”  I live in hope that Republicans will put down their far right agenda and pick up a position of becoming problem solvers; meanwhile, I hope Democrats will become increasingly committed to being the party of our conscience. We can’t ignore politics. We raindrops, reminding politicians we are part of their constituencies, need to work daily to spread practices of kindness, which means respecting diversity.  This isn’t just about social justice; it’s about humankind.

White House Pushes Abstinence Over Effectiveness in Teen Pregnancy Programs

The foregoing headline is followed by a story in today’s New York Times by Pam Belluck, a story that notes “The new rules favor ‘sexual risk avoidance.”  This story is very bad and very costly news.  Consider this background information: Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP), an evidence-based program to prevent teen pregnancy across the U.S., was notified by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that grants would be terminated at the end of the 2018 federal fiscal year, two years before the projects were due to end.  In Texas, this program has helped Texas Teen birth rate drop to a low of 33 per 1000 in 2015 from a high of 78.4 per 1000 in 1991.  /This data appeared in The Austin American-Statesman, March 15, 2018, in guest view point by Molly Clayton.

Those of us who gathered yesterday for Friends for Civil Action’s 17th Postcard Storm, sent the following messages to our U.S. Senators and U.S. House Representative:

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program helped the Texas teen birth rate drop to a low of 33 per 1000 in 2015 from a high of 78.4 per 1000 in 1991. It’s been proposed this program be cut from the federal budget, a very costly cut for the future, as each early pregnancy creates a new fragile family often in need of social service dollars for generations.

Those of you reading this post are encouraged to send the same message or call it in. When you deliver your message, provide your name as it appears on your voter’s registration, your mailing address and zip, to make your position eligible for tallying. A quick internet search of Congressional Districts will provide you with the easy prompts you need to get the contact information for your elected officials.  Following the “do unto others as you would have them do to you, ” civil messages are recommended, and dropping unneeded modifiers helps.

We, the People have a job to do: speak out and vote each step of the way

Those of us who hope to be governed by kindness — meaning that we want kind behavior to guide our decision making — have a job to do.  We, the people need to stay diligent. We have a choice to accept authority or to advocate for change, when change is necessary.

Looking at today’s immigration policy, those of us who seek kind behavior, see acute problems that require change in order for us to be a kind community of people.  One part of kindness is to keep communities safe.  Another part of  kindness is to be welcoming to people who need our welcome.  Neither one of these is a simple task, met by one strategy alone, but it should be clear that using our nation’s resources to deport people who have been living successfully in the United States for years is unkind, disrupting families and instilling fear in people unnecessarily. We don’t function well when fear is driving our lives. Sometimes fear is unavoidable, but in this case it is not.  Our nation should be using its resources to establish more pathways to legal status for immigrants already successfully living in our country, not spending money to ship people back to chaotic, unsafe places, tearing up families in the United States in the process.

As a reminder about the dangers of relying on those in authority to set the rules of our lives, without speaking out, consider how often authority sources don’t get kindness right.

An example I know is the Episcopal Church, which is the faith tradition in which I was raised.  The church, sometimes very slowly it seems, has shifted its position on gender and other issues of discrimination, ultimately recognizing earlier church positions were unkind.  These shifts in government, in faith organizations, in schools, and other aspects of institutionalized community life get made because people speak out.  Sometimes it is people speaking out in fear or greed, something we see much of today, who set the course of change. Always, those who seek a kinder, better world, understanding that kindness often requires bravery, have work to do, helping correct the course by speaking out.  Here are some some of the changes, made because people spoke out until they were heard, the Episcopal Church has made, correcting wrongs:

  1. Before I was born, there were Episcopal bishops who owned slaves.
  2. When I was a child, females could not be acolytes.
  3. When I was a young woman, females could not lay-read, much less be ordained.
  4. When I was a middle-aged woman, the church was working through where it should stand on homosexuality; the church would bless animals, but not bless the marriages of homosexuals.
  5. When I was an older woman, the church took a stand on transgenders, notifying the Texas legislature if the bathroom bill which would dictate that people use the bathroom of their gender at birth passed, the church would need to consider moving their general convention—10,000 people coming to Austin for about a week, bringing revenue with them, to a more inclusive, welcoming state.

I have seen a lot change in my life. The changes ahead depend on we, the people seeking kindness to be diligent about what outcomes we want, speaking out to politicians who set the rules that govern community life and speaking through the institutions which are part of the fabrics of our daily being.

The Postcard Storm: ten outcomes we should all want and two simple actions we can all take

Here are the ten outcomes we should all want:

  1. A Habitable Planet
  2. Good Healthcare
  3. Quality Public Education
  4. Public Safety
  5. Economic Well-Being
  6. Freedom
  7. Enrichment of Experience
  8. Problem-solving Capacity
  9. Hospitality
  10. Kind Behavior

Everyone, from President Trump to the Koch Brothers to the head of the NAACP, to ministers of all religions, to governors from both parties, the head of the EPA, to media representatives, etc. has reason to want these outcomes for themselves and for any future generation members whom they might value.

Here are two actions all of us with the right vote can take to do our part to secure these outcomes:

  1. Tell our elected officials on a regular basis in words they can hear we want these outcomes

That’s where The Postcard Storm comes into play.  By using the provided message prompts that speak to you, adapting them as you prefer, you can establish a regular communication pattern with officials that is time efficient and sustainable. The more of us that send these messages, the greater our raindrop effect and the more difficult our collective voice is to ignore.

  1. Cast informed votes in all phases of election cycles

If you think that your vote doesn’t matter, think again.  My representative in the Texas legislature, Donna Howard, has served twelve years in office. In one election cycle, she held onto her office by a margin of 4 votes.  Our votes in primaries and in run-offs is every bit as important as our vote in the general election.  We need to vote each step of the way.

Conquering the Political Divide

Re: Our Divide

Believing the polarized divide in our country and world is destructive, we take up our pens to send healing messages. If many of us do this regularly, good for ourselves and for others will come of our effort.  At minimum, we will be better people for doing our part.

Re:  Republicans

In my dreams, the Republican party would decide to become the party of agile problem solvers, looking for cost effective solutions based on expert input to our long-term problems. The problem-solving we need is much more complex than giving businesses and the rich a big tax break.  It includes gathering together questions we haven’t even yet thought to ask.

Re: Democrats

The Democratic party in my dreams would be the party of our conscience, keeping the value of loving all our neighbors near and far, here at home and abroad–because we are global–front of mind.

Re:  Good Decisions

Adept decision making begins with framing excellent questions. Leaping to a seemingly simple solution may rally people to action, but for the solution to be good and cost effective it needs thoughtful examination, with action coming before the time to act has passed.  I favor solutions that are crafted with care and in-acted before unnecessary harm is done.


A Message for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents

The truth is Democrats stand for a strong economy, for quality public education, and for a government that represents all of us. The challenges we face as a high-growth region, like traffic congestion, are only solved when we work together.  This quote from Representative Celia Israel, speaking about the Austin area — mirrored by many areas around the country — could be applied to many Republicans and Independents I know, as well.

It’s time to get over the divide and work together on outcomes we should all want: a habitable planet, good healthcare, quality public education, public safety, economic well-being, freedom, enrichment from the arts and humanities, problem-solving capacity,  hospitality, and kind behavior.

Public Safety

I oppose guns in the hands of private citizens in public. For those who are sporting hunters or feel it necessary to defend their home or car with a gun, that’s okay with me if they pass reasonable background checks and if they properly store guns with approved locks in locations where children or other people at risk live or visit.  Personally, I would not be comfortable with an unlocked, loaded gun in a home, purse, briefcase or car. People, including children,  unaware of the gun’s presence or without the skill set or emotional well-being to deal with a loaded gun, might discharge the gun by accident or even intentionally.

Re: Healthcare and the Death Sentence

The opioid crisis will not be solved by giving drug dealers death sentences, proposed as a partial solution by President Trump.  If people behaved well because of threat of punishment, we would not currently house 22% of the world’s jailed population. Our country is too invested in criminal justice and not invested enough in the hope, healthcare, and education programs that inspire people to take care of themselves or that help communities recognize that some are simply not up to caring for themselves. [Source for percent of jailed population: Wikipedia]