I've become a believer in the Wix web site creation service. It's a winner for people like me -- those who feel comfortable doing some site designing, yet are about as familiar with HTML coding as with Sanskrit.
I'm also a big believer in the potential of Salem Community Vision to do some good for our fair city, which could be way fairer, in 2014.
Here's a key reason.
If there's anything Salem, Oregon, the United States, and the world at large needs now, it is more talking that makes things better rather than talking that makes things worse.
Divisiveness is draining. It's exhausting.
The never-ending clash of R vs. D, conservative vs. liberal, faith vs. science, rich vs. poor, corporations vs. people, it just has gotten way out of control. I'm tired of it.
Yet those words... community and vision... I love them.
We're all in this thing called Life together.
Sure, we all have different views of what life is all about. However, it is possible to come together and create a shared vision of what we value, what we want to work toward, what makes life meaningful for just about everyone.
To do that, its necessary to go beyond slogans, tag lines, Twitter tweets, and Facebook posts. Frank Bruni talks about this in "For 2014, Tweet Less, Read More." His exhortation goes beyond reading, though.
On social media, on many blogs and along other byways of the Internet, the person you disagree with isn’t just misinformed but moronic, corrupt, evil. Complaints become rants. Rants become diatribes. And this tendency travels to cable news shows, Congress and statehouses, where combatants shout first and ask questions later.
For more than two decades, there’s been a celebration of slow food. Over the last few years, we’ve proved receptive to slow TV. What we really need is slow debate. It would trade the sugary highs and lows of rapid-fire outrage for a more balanced diet. We’d be healthier. Probably happier, too.
Next month Salem Community Vision hopes to engage City of Salem officials in debating the pros and cons of their $70 million-plus proposal for a new police facility building at the Civic Center, which includes seismic retrofitting and remodeling of existing Civic Center structures.
These would be what Bruni calls slow debates. The old-fashioned kind.
Open to the public. People sitting in an auditorium. Two sides presenting their viewpoints clearly and respectfully. Plenty of time for questions, comments, and back and forth discussion involving both the citizenry and public officials.
In his fascinating book, "Happy City," Charles Montgomery speaks about our need for a sense of belonging, of community, of civic engagement.
This matters not only because civic engagement is a civic duty, and not just because it is one more contibutor to well-being. (Which, by the way, it is: we tend to be happier when we feel involved in the decisions that affect us.)
It matters because cities need us to reach out to one another as never before.
A few years after convincing the world of the value of social capital, the sociologist Robert Putnam produced evidence that the ethnic diversity that is increasingly defining major cities is linked with lower levels of social trust.
This is a sad and dangerous state of affairs. Trust is the bedrock on which cities grow and thrive.
Modern metropolitan cities depend on our ability to think beyond the family and tribe and to trust the people who look, dress, and act nothing like us to treat us fairly, to honor commitments and contracts, to consider our well-being along with their own, and, most of all, to make sacrifices for the common good.
Collective problems such as pollution and climate change demand collective responses. Civilization is a shared project.
May making Salem a better place to live, work, and play become much more of a shared project in 2014. Salem Community Vision will do its part. So must we all.