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Coconino Voices: Flagstaff, we need to work to come together

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Red Rover Don't Come Over

Zofi Laufer, 6, left, and Lucy Lalan, 5, right, have a play date across the alley between their homes in this 2020 file photo.

Flagstaff, we need to talk. But given the recent election and current climate of things, it has become very hard to have useful conversations -- within families and across communities. Politics, pandemic, policing, race, religion, rights, ideology, identity, immigration ... there's no end to the sources of acrimony amidst us all. We can do better.

Yes, these have been trying times and the past few ugly years have emphasized the divisions among us and engendered ill will between neighbors, relatives and even friends. We can all find someone or something to blame; frequently indicted are politicians, parties, social media, mainstream media and, yes, viruses. Whoever or whatever the etiology, the vitriol has created a grand chasm between us, making it easier to ignore, hate, or worse, cancel those on the other side. Public meetings have become nightmares. Political debates are devoid of intellectual discourse. And righteous protests become riotous disasters.

As such, how can we get back to a civil, collaborative and functioning community? Do we really hate each other or do we really have more in common than we are willing to admit? We think the latter.

Conversations and connections usually start from a shared point of interest on a topic. And even though we all don't agree, we argue that most of us have some shared First Principles, those items of belief upon which all our other beliefs are based. For example, after talking with Flagstaffers of all stripes and creeds, it seems that most of us agree on some level of "human rights" and "community responsibility."

Chief among human rights is the freedom of thought and speech -- it is first in our Bill of Rights, after all. Of course, a few among us may even disagree with the right to think and speak, but even they have the right to think and speak those beliefs.

Community responsibilities are not so clear, but if you live in a community, like most of us, you generally will follow the laws, pay taxes, and even support your community from time to time -- from helping a neighbor to volunteering at a food pantry to coaching a little league team.

With these First Principles, we have a brotherhood and sisterhood that we can't deny. If we only agree on 10% of things, that doesn't make us 90% enemies, it makes us 10% friends with lots of room to grow. We just need to commit to keep growing.

We at NALA want to do our part. We recognize that the differences among us don't have to be the divisions between us. We believe that if we can hear each other and commit to learn from each other, we can constructively interact for the purposes of working things out rather than tearing things down. In 2023, we ask you to join us in having real community conversations and interactions. We will connect as a community, online and on the street corner, on the hard topics that we need to talk about.

For now, stop to say hi to a neighbor, re-friend someone you un-friended, and know that others voted with their conscience just like you did. It will be OK, but Flagstaff, we do need to talk.

The Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance's mission is to improve the greater Flagstaff area and the state of Arizona by bringing together talent, resources and leadership to create action on priority issues.


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