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Civility, respect, courtesy: Disappearing words and actions
Jeffrey Lewis

Turmoil in local city government, compounded by a general lack of clarity on the economic front at home and globally, has caused some in our area to take a giant step backward.

Taxpayers are angry and frustrated, in part due to Turlock’s inability to solve problems primarily caused by inherited economic miscalculations. But that isn’t all that’s at play. At the root of this turmoil lies fear and uncertainty.

Turlock, like many other localities, is witnessing an unprecedented race to the bottom, in which elected officials from both political parties are vying to outpace each other. This failure to collaborate is symptomatic of the tawdry politics of today, further exacerbated by angry citizen emails and social media attacks on elected officials for trying to do their jobs.

Many years ago, the government was once an inspiring place of grand ideas and magnanimous spirit. Today, though, what passes for debate more closely resembles a disheartening hotbed of moral ambiguity and confusion.  Politicians and community members are using social media tools to argue their point of view, often peppered with insults and innuendo.  The worst part, it has gotten personal.

What happened to Turlock?  To our society?  Disagreement once opened opportunities for robust discussion, which might ultimately lead to consensus, or at least an attempt to find it through respectful debate.

Opinions are not character faults.  However, when mixed with personal attacks on gender, race, body type, hairstyle and clothing choices, they push civility, and substance, out the window.  In doing so, the City slips into becoming a place where businesses may not settle.

Turlock is a community of great pride and history – a faith-based community that truly cares for its neighbors when they are in trouble.  When the economy took a nosedive, people pulled together to help.  Our focus should be on families and helping to keep them healthy, fed and intact.

Given the economic nemesis that the City cannot escape from, there is no greater opportunity than today to come together with one voice, one solution, predicated on honest debate and complete transparency. 

It is important that we not forget that social media can help educate and provide a forum for discourse, but it can also be a distraction and deterrent for finding solutions.

Civility and leadership are the fabric that holds our nation together. Divisiveness can rip a community to shreds. Our leaders must rise above personal and partisan agendas and work together, to find solutions to our problems here at home.

It is Labor Day, a time to celebrate working women and men, something Turlock has a long and rich history of doing. Part of that celebration should be re-invoking kindness and respect.  Are you willing to start anew, learn to challenge the status quo respectfully?

— Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock.  He can be reached at The views expressed here are his own and not those of the Foundation.