Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Controversy and Courage

It is fascinating to watch what is happening in the world today. The news media often decides for us what is worth reporting and what isn’t. The internet means anything you say or do, can become instant knowledge around the world. The mob mentality is often reinforced by the web as those who agree with you can cheer you on, while disagreement can garner name calling and disrespect.

It seems if you take a controversial position or stand, the thoughts, reflection, and discussions that went into that decision, become moot to some. If you dare disagree, then you’re ill-informed, wrong, or perhaps just stupid.

Some controversy is due to complex issues which defy easy solutions and in some cases measurement.  Some are politically charged issues. Others are due to political correctness where some are offended just by the discussion. More and more public issues include elements of all three.

Just bring up the topic of climate change, changing the definition of marriage, or GMO seed in any group and see the variety of opinions. In many cases, you’ll find someone who is passionate about the issue and often you’ll find passion on opposing sides. Some people choose to avoid any topic that engenders controversy in the vain hope of avoiding conflict.

In the Grange, controversy is a good thing as our members are supposed to be willing to listen to the other side. We view differences of opinion as opportunities to learn from each other, to see the issue from different points of view.

Controversy can become a bad thing in an organization. When members don’t have the courage to listen to opposing views, when we call members names or cast doubt upon their character because they have pluck enough to advocate against “our” position, or when members refuse to acknowledge facts that challenge their ideas. We see this negative trait in our society nearly every day.

But it doesn’t have to ever be a bad thing. Science can now measure the world in ways we cannot visualize, we have more data than we can absorb and understand, and many people are worried or frightened about how the world is going to handle technology in the future. Hollywood and Sci-Fi writers have made fortunes with doom and gloom scenarios, yet history shows most advances benefit society and people.

Just as scientists revise their views when new evidence appears, so must we as citizens and Grangers have the courage to engage in civil discussion and debate, keep an open mind, and often have our organization take a thoughtful position that is in the midst of controversy. Without taking positions, we would be like so many other groups that avoid topics that engender passion and action.  Yet when we take a position on any topic, we must always be willing to review and reconsider those actions in the face of new information.

In addition, we must have the courage to abide decisions against us and yet work within the broad boundaries of our laws and rules, both in our government and in our organizations to educate others. Controversy can either strengthen the due processes of an organization or government or create great divides between people. The answer is for all to develop the courage to work through the issues while remaining friends.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence Day Should Remind Us of Our Duty As Citizens

It is a special thing to be an American Citizen. We are blessed to live in a country where a person can achieve whatever they are willing to work for in education or career. We are a nation governed not by men or women, but by laws that apply to each person equally. Every person is entitled to their own opinion and can voice it as loudly as they choose. We can join together with others to worship, to accomplish civic causes, or simply to spend some relaxation time.

For those of us who were born as Americans, we should be grateful and amazed as we watch so many in the world trying to enter our nation and become citizens. We should not be complacent about, or take for granted, what this unique nation stands for.

The fourth of July, Independence Day, should be a day that reminds us of our duty as citizens.  We should be informed and involved.

Being an informed citizen includes understanding who we are as Americans and what our history is. 237 years of history is a lot of knowledge, but every citizen should understand why our founders broke from England and what it cost in life and treasure. What was manifest destiny? What were the major causes of our Civil War? Woman’s suffrage, civil rights, and so many other issues that our nation had to work through, need to be understood. It isn’t history, it is how we became who we are as a people.

I would not presume to say any group of people are more or less patriotic, but consider the fact that rural Americans volunteer at the highest percentage rate for joining the military. 

It is our duty as Americans to be involved. We should vote, but do our research and form our own opinions before doing so. We should be involved in the party of our choice and work to influence them. We should give back to others by giving of both time and money. Joining organizations, such as the Grange, becomes a powerful way of giving back for what we have, as well as paying it forward to the next generation.

I believe that the Declaration of Independence should be read in public every year and then we should spend some time discussing with our youth what it means. It doesn’t take men and women in black robes to tell us what it means, it is right there in black and white.

Being an American is a blessing and confers upon each of us great privileges, rights, and duties.  So many today, speak of the privileges and rights. This year let’s reflect upon the duties as well.