Last night, Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church held our first “Civility Forum.” The purpose of these forums is to help people communicate with those with whom they disagree and to be civil in their discourse. It was moderated by Jessica Savage, the 5 PM news anchor and investigative reporter for WTOC. She did a wonderful job keeping the conversation moving and the hour went by quickly. The panel included Dr. Robert Pawlicki, a retired psychologist and university professor; Chief Jeff Hadley of the Chatham Country Police Department; Tim Cook, director of Landing’s Security; and the Rev. Archie Seabrook, a 25 year chaplain for Hospice Savannah and a 7th Day Adventist pastor. Here are some highlights from the evening:
- “If we’re happy, we don’t act out as much. We act out because we take things personally.”
- Pawlicki told of a situation when he was teaching at University of West Virginia Medical School. A resident and a patient were arguing to the point of almost fighting. He stepped in and spoke to the patient, saying, “You are really angry.” This comment didn’t confront the patient or even deal with the issue, but by identifying with the patient’s emotions, it helped him de-escalate the situation.
- More people believe we live in a tribal society and as a result, we fear “others.” We see this played out on TV. We need to remember we can’t change another person’s point of view, but we have to listen and put in time to build a relationship.
- We can ask others why they believe the way they do, not to contest or argue, but to listen. This helps us build friends with people with whom we may not agree on many issues.
- Just because we don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean they are a bad person.
- We can’t control others, we can only control ourselves.
- Speaking about social media: Groups on social media seem to have more power. We should avoid jumping into groups, but if we do jump in, we should say something civil and not become part of the problem.
- The police are interventionist. We get called into conflicts. “But sometimes as in Ferguson, Missouri (and other places) we can also be a part of the problem.”
- It is easier to maintain our emotions if we’re closer to people and know them better. He described law enforcement as having an “arranged marriage” with a community. We must put in an effort every day (as in a marriage) to build a better relationship with the community. In making this point, he spoke about working with a Black Lives Matter organizer in Kalamazoo, Michigan and the trust that he and the department were able to build with those wanting to protest (and how the protest was carried out without anyone being arrested).
- Building on what Seabrook had said about African-Americans relationships to the police: “We have to remember that it wasn’t that long ago police were called to enforced unjust laws such as separate water fountains.”
- If we can engage in community in a positive way, making human contact before there is a problem, the badge and uniform melts away.
- “I tend to believe there are more good people than bad, but we get trapped into thinking otherwise because of all the rhetoric.” The news makes us more aware of it.
- “My father said, ‘You can be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution.’ Since I wrote an article complaining about the lack of civility, I felt I needed to do more so I agreed to participate in this event.”
- Cook told about working as supervisor in the Greensboro NC jail. The officers who did the job were those who were willing to listen (even if they didn’t agree) with the prisoners.
- I’m not a friend of social media. It is too easy to get sucked into negativity.
- If we do get sucked into an argument, we should remember to fight fair.
- Four things we should do:
1. Set a standard for ourselves.
2. Model that standard.
3. Coach that standard in others
4. Hold ourselves to that standard.
- If you ask questions of others, you show interest.
- We deal with conflict all the time in hospice. It used to be that most of my time was spent in ministry, but now more time spent with arguments and attempts to de-escalate situations.
- Seabrook told about an African-American man at Memorial Hospital whose wife had died. The man was very upset and beating on the wall. Security was called by the nurse and when the man saw the uniformed security guard approach, he became both scared and angrier. As a chaplain, Seabrook had to intervene, asking the security officer to step away as he spoke to the man and calmed him down.
- A healthy death requires peace with God and family—hospice attempts to help the patient bring closure to both sides.
- I believe in more prayer.
- We’re to love our neighbors as ourselves. We should go to our neighbors and introduce ourselves and reach to people in our neighborhoods.