Occhipinti: the importance of civility and respect

Dear Editor:
Like millions of Americans, I watched President Barack Obama’s speech in Tucson and was moved. It was a brilliant address. The president recognized the grief and horror we all felt after learning about the shootings. He talked about the victims and their families. He talked about the innocents who were cut down senselessly, and the heroes who risked their own lives to stop a madman and to help the injured.
The vast majority of us in public office do what we do because we feel called to serve our fellow citizens. We do so not for glory, or to fulfill our own egos, but to make our small piece of the world a little more just, and to make life a little bit easier for those who are struggling.
One line in the president’s speech resonated strongly with me. He said: “At a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it’s important to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, and not in a way that wounds.” The decisions made by the leaders of our small city, the debates in which we engage, the issues that sometimes consume our days, are ultimately of minor consequence, especially when you think about them in the context of the genuine suffering that goes on around the world.
Sometimes, we in Hoboken can get so passionate about our differences that we forget that we all live in the same square mile, and that after all the heated debates, and the five-hour meetings, and the public demonstrations, we are still neighbors. We should guard against allowing our political differences to degenerate into behavior that brings dishonor to our city, or our families, or ourselves. Honest disagreements are the fuel of our democracy, but we shouldn’t allow our disagreements to fester into the kind of cancerous rage that leads to incivility, or to violence.
Let’s keep in mind that we all love our city and that, no matter how hard we disagree, in the end, we are all Hobokenites. As the president said last night, “Only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation.”

Councilman Tim Occhipinti

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