Over three decades ago a friend expressed his opinion and regret that, “The day of civil discourse is past.” I wonder how he feels today more than 30 years later.

I have opinions (on just about everything) and I am willing to share them- if you will listen. I am open to discussions, conversations, civil discourse- but not arguments. I know that I am not always right…nor am I always wrong. Sometimes I am neither. Sometimes I am both. And I am willing to give you that same consideration.

When I am “for” something it does not mean that I am “against” everything or anyone else. If you disagree with me, I will respect your opinion. I may be firm but I never want to be harsh. I will not demonize you. I believe it is important to separate issues from people. People are more important.

There are people who jump on every bandwagon. Ready to rally to any cause. I am not one of them and might rightly be accused of not responding to situations that are critical to the well-being of others. I understand that every good and just effort requires a champion if results are to be achieved, if change is to occur.

Elie Wiesel said, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” I agree. There certainly are things that require a response. Demand a word. But not everything.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” He is right but everything does not need an immediate response and certainly not an angry and vindictive one. The ancient Greek, Euripides, reminds us that sometimes “silence is true wisdom’s best reply.”

Please do not misunderstand me. I believe that we need to be change agents and confront injustice and evil. That means that there are times when we stand up and speak up but we need to be careful to address issues and not attack persons. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize recipient, suggests “The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue.” That is true for any behavior or attitude that damages people.

Leah Ward Sears, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, offers this counsel: “We need to begin again to raise civil discourse to another level. I mean, we shout and scream and yell and get very little accomplished, but you can disagree very much with the next guy and still be friends and acquaintances.”

I am thankful if you agree with me. At the same time it is OK if you disagree. I simply ask that we treat each other with respect and dignity. It just might be that we can accomplish more together than either of us can alone.

Jamie Jenkins