Witness the Loss of Civility By Gabrielle Dolphin
Alameda SUN, June 26th, Commentary
“Dys” from Greek means “painful.” “Dysfunctional” therefore does not mean something does not “function”. Rather it means that something functions, but does so in a painful way. At the present time, Alameda is feeling like a dysfunctional family. We are a community agitated and at times in denial about our recent peek at the elephant in our collective living room – racism, xenophobia, misogyny, hatred and intolerance. The consequences of these personal attitudes and beliefs, acted out on the public stage, has led to the toxic atmosphere hanging over our island community and politics.
Public spaces have played host to human interaction and political discourse since ancient times. It’s open to all and it’s where we navigate the unfamiliar, interact with strangers and conduct our economic, political and social business. Behavior that makes public space safe is civility. Civility is defined as “claiming and caring for one’s identity and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.” Civility is essential for trust and a healthy community. Civility is essential for a healthy democracy.
We have been witness to a textbook case of incivility in the cringe-worthy skewering of Vice Mayor Malia Vella. To set the record straight:
1) Malia Vella is the only Councilmember born in Alameda.
2) Ms. Vella is the only Councilmember whose parent is an AUSD alumnus.
3) Ms. Vella did not receive campaign donations from our local Fire Fighters (IAFF 689) knowing she would be reviewing their contract.
4) Ms. Vella took no contributions from developers.
5) Ms. Vella did not vote for the severance payment to our former City Manager, Jill Keimach.
6) Ms. Vella received more votes than anyone else on the current council (including the Mayor) in the most recent election and received more votes in Alameda alone (13,856) than Slauson did during his AD-18 primary run (10,549) where he gathered votes from 3 large cities: Alameda, Oakland and San Leandro.
With “birtherism” rearing its ugly head in Alameda there can be no question we have an elephant sitting in our collective living room. “Birtherism” was a movement in national politics started by our current President which doubted our first Black president was a natural-born U.S. citizen, thus implying he was ineligible to be President. Ms. Vella is the only Councilmember whose citizenship has been questioned implying she is ineligible for being our Vice Mayor. She is the only member of the Council whose residency has been questioned. She has been called a “whore,” and she is the target of on-going bullying campaign in the form of purposely mispronouncing her name in public.
Peace and safety in public space preserves the social fabric. It allows economies and cultures to flourish. Without the promise and hope of civility we will continue to live in that anxious limbo wondering when and where the next attack will come.