Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Seeks ways to reverse growing incivility in Pelham and heal fractured community for all

To the editor:

I want to talk about growing polarization and incivility in Pelham and how, maybe, we can begin to undo it and come together more as a community.

But first, I want to share a story: As a good friend and I caught up on the train one morning, we discussed the possible high school cell phone ban. We typically have the same sarcastic perspective on issues, and this conversation started out the same way, with an eye roll and, “Can you believe how ridiculous this is?!”

As we unpacked the issue, it became clear that we actually had opposite views on the ban: “Oh! You think …!” We laughed as we realized the assumed shared eye roll was actually only superficially shared annoyance, not agreement on substance.

But we trust and respect one another. So we kept talking. And trusting. And listening.

We were able to stay with the conversation, really hear the other person’s position and refine our own in some ways. Solid alignment wasn’t the point. When we parted ways at Harlem-125th Street, I felt energized, evolved in my thinking and more connected to my friend.

This encounter has stayed with me. The trust in our friendship gave us the space to disagree without getting positional, defensive or argumentative. Rather than aiming to win or be smarter than the other person, we were trying to understand. And underneath what might have appeared to be opposing views on cell phones, we were actually coming from the same place: A shared commitment to doing what’s best for our kids.

I worry that we are losing a collective sense of trust and respect in our Pelham community.  I’ve seen a lot of polarization play out in person and on social media, especially in the last several months. Many of us seem stuck in our respective positions and are quick to debase others, and it feels almost impossible to see or take in any other perspective.

We seem to be losing sight of all the values we share as a community. Each of us is 100% sure that our position is correct and “the other side“ is completely wrong. We throw politicized buzzwords at each other, assuming we all define those buzzwords the same way (we don’t). We clutch our proverbial pearls in righteousness and duke it out on social media. It’s exhausting, and it’s corrosive. And our kids are most definitely watching.

I hope that we can lower the temperature and remember that we are all neighbors who share many more values than we have differences. I hope we can approach issues with more curiosity and respect for one another’s humanity. Instead of the usual positional tug-of-war, maybe we can all evolve our thinking a bit and come up with better ways forward that truly benefit us all.

Just to get the ball rolling, here are a few ideas:

  • Let’s stop venting at or about one another on social media.
  • Respect the whole community, not just our own perspectives or other selected voices.
  • Start with our shared values as neighbors, look for common ground and compromise on differences.
  • Have a coffee or a beer with a neighbor and hear their perspectives on issues that are relevant to them.
  • Ask our kids what they think and believe—as we’re always better listeners to them than to strangers.
  • Find opportunities to have fun with one another—parties, sports events, community events, etc.

I hope you’ll join me in working to heal the fractures and come together more as the community we all hoped for when we moved here.

Steve Salee

528 Stellar Ave.

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Comments (3)

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  • A

    Annie FreemanJun 11, 2024 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you Steve.

  • L

    Liz FarrellJun 7, 2024 at 3:27 pm

    Nothing to disagree with here! Bravo!

  • J

    John ElliottJun 7, 2024 at 11:50 am

    Well said, Steve. We can have much better conversations if we choose to.