Pattye Benson

Community Matters


Community Matters 2013 … Fostering Constructive Conversations

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

~ Alfred Tennyson

January 1 … Today is the first day of the New Year 2013. What I love most about the beginning of a new year is the hope that a new year offers. It marks a new beginning in our lives, but it is up to us to take advantage of this new beginning. I like the idea of ‘wiping the slate clean’ and starting the new year full of hope for an even better year ahead

Declaring our New Year’s resolutions makes us feel good, but we should make resolutions that lead us to change our behavior, not for a brief period, but for the entire year and for years to come. Over the last several months, I have received emails and telephone calls referencing some of the comments made on Community Matters. As a New Year’s resolution to myself, I am addressing the topic of civility on Community Matters.

Civility, at its best, is not about shutting people up, or forbidding passionate engagement. It’s about keeping in mind that everyone’s ‘voice’ matters, even the voices of those we disagree with. It’s about treating a debate not just as a disagreement, but also as a collaboration.

Looking at debate as collaboration as well as a disagreement can really change quality and tone of the discussion — isn’t this what we want? I think some of us make the mistake in believing that uncensored speech is the most free, which in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech. Civility enhances free speech and commentary.

What kind of discussion do I want to have on this forum? The overall goal of Community Matters is to create a welcoming space where we can have lively discussions of public affairs, without the ad hominem attacks that discourage many thoughtful people from participating in blogs.

Spirited discussion is encouraged on Community Matters. Of the writings of French philosopher Voltaire, one of his most notable pronouncements was “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” I am a firm supporter in our right to free speech but — when disagreeing with someone, be respectful of his or her opinions and avoid attacks of a personal nature. Attacks on policy decisions and ideas are just fine, but don’t go after the person. Any personal attacks toward another person may result in the deletion of the comment from Community Matters. Be honest in your comments and stay on topic of discussion.

Your voices do matters and my hope for 2013 is that we continue to foster constructive conversations on Community Matters.

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