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Susan Wilson, center, Sheridan County School District 2 board chair, accepts signed petitions from Tiffany Leimback, cofounder of Free Our Faces, at the school board’s regular monthly meeting Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. One of the petitions requests school board members voluntarily resign, while a second seeks the recall of the board.

 

Note: This letter was originally sent to members of the Sheridan County medical community and Sheridan County School District 2 Board of Trustees and administration regarding COVID-19 conversations.

I applaud you who have stood up in public and stated the facts about COVID-19 in order to share clear, understandable, fact-based information for decision-making. When I was against the war in Vietnam and still volunteered for service in Vietnam, I did not have a wife or children or grandchildren about whom to be concerned and for whom I was responsible.

I admit to being hesitant to stand up in the same way now because at some level I fear hateful violent responses toward my family or me from some in our community. On the other hand, there is that saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you may fall for anything.” I believe that listening to others and responding thoughtfully and respectfully will help us all to move forward more effectively and safely than using angry, threatening and bullying voices and actions. 

I support fully your voice and your actions to date. I’m also willing to sit down and have a conversation with you regarding all of this if you desire. I know you are very busy. I want you to know you’re not alone regarding COVID-19 issues. 

This letter finds its origins in a letter I wrote to my son after the 2012 election processes, which were significantly vitriolic. My thoughts focus on process as well as content regarding necessary and serious conversations regarding vaccines and mask wearing. With a few changes in 2021 in italics, it is included below:

 

Thoughts post-election 2012

Civility does not equal weakness.

Assertiveness and firmness can be expressed without being aggressive. 

Kindness, decency and respect are not reflections of naiveté.

Gentleness is a form of strength.

Compromise does not equal losing. It reflects a respectful interaction and interchange of ideas that allows some of the needs of each party to be met in order to accomplish a shared goal of the greatest good for the greatest number and, hopefully, an engagement that allows for reengagement on whatever issues may need to be addressed. 

Thoughtful responsiveness far outweighs the use of emotional reactiveness. The louder one yells, the greater the likelihood is that the anger and threat will be felt and responded to rather than the content of the message. 

If one can describe rather than judge another’s point of view, three things are more likely to happen. First, you will better understand each other. Second, the other will experience being heard without judgment. Third, both of you will be more likely to want to remain engaged in a conversation that has a higher probability of a positive outcome for both of you. Like Susan Scott says in her book, “Fierce Conversations,” “Each conversation IS the relationship in the moment of its occurrence.” [Paraphrase] The takeaway? This applies whether the conversation is one conversation with a store clerk or the “conversation” that is carried out over a lifetime with a spouse, or between people to address difficult issues related to COVID-19.

Bruce L. Andrews

Sheridan

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