By Kate Bracy
As we come up to Independence Day this year, we can take a moment to consider all that July Fourth has come to represent. What is it for you? Freedom? Patriotism? America? Parades? Hot dogs? Fireworks? We all have memories of this summer celebration and it means something a little different to each of us.
At Civility First… So We Can Work Together, we like to see it as a chance to remember who we are.
We are all Americans and neighbors who live together on an island in Puget Sound. Each of us has his or her own definition of “freedom” and of “independence.” And part of what makes our representative form of government work is the freedom for each of us to speak up about our values and ideas.
How we conduct our conversations matters. Civility is a practice of staying respectful and polite in discussion. It is not staying quiet or giving in to someone else’s ideas. But it is the necessary foundational practice for working together. We cannot enjoy community or solve problems without being able to talk to one another with respect. It is a deeply patriotic act to speak up and say respectfully, “I think differently about that.”
To create a culture where we can exercise that First Amendment right to say what we believe, we need a couple of things. We need someone to hear it and somewhere to say it. We must be willing to listen to each other respectfully, especially in the public domain. We enjoy great freedom of choice in this country and on this island, and we need to extend those freedoms to everyone who lives here.
So, if you attend the Celebrate America fireworks at Freeland Park on July 3 or go to the Oak Harbor or Maxwelton Parades on July 4, look around you. Everyone you see, regardless of their political views, values freedom as much as you do. Let’s keep in mind that different opinions and rigorous discussions were the first step toward making the country that we live in. To move forward as a country and as a community, we will need to listen to each other and share our own perspectives. Respectfully.
Look for Civility First at “Celebrate America” and at the Maxwelton Beach parade. Enjoy the fireworks and the hot dogs. And remember that we are all Americans and that we created this great nation by sharing ideas.