What do we want our elected representation to look like?
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I once had a judge tell me something valuable: not to confuse her kindness for weakness.
The context was a decision she made that I thought was her being too soft on my courtroom opponent.
She humbled me, explaining her deliberate decision-making was beyond my understanding.
While I saw her actions as “being soft,” she saw them as making sure her final judgment — which was ultimately in my favor — left no room for appeal.
What I know now but didn’t understand then was that strength and wisdom come in all forms, and extending kindness isn’t weak — instead, it’s a deeper form of strength.
As a professional attorney, I am frequently faced with opposing counsel who need to beat their chest or throw in the occasional cheap dig to win an argument.
They rely on quips over content, loudness over substance, austerity over amenability.
Sadly, it’s not just my profession that displays a lack of civility— it’s also become widespread in the general public and amongst our elected leaders.
The news and social media are full of our politicians criticizing not only those in the opposite political party, but also those that don’t agree with every opinion of theirs within their own party.
Don’t get me wrong; as a conservative, I don’t agree with most of the policies of the left.
But identity politics has ravaged its way through our politics and permeated its way into our general society, and it’s tearing us all apart.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the ability to respectfully disagree with policy without personally attacking the human that is inside each of us.
As citizens, we look to leaders to be examples for us and to guide us. Whether it’s leaders in our churches, in our family units, at work or in politics, we yearn to look up to something positive, strong and enlightening.
At our core, I believe we want to be good-hearted, we want to learn and we want to flourish.
Some of the greatest things about our country include our diversity, our freedom to express disagreement and our ability to elect leaders we feel will best represent us.
So, what do we want that representation to look like?
At a Palm Coast City Council meeting this last month, a topic of conversation was the commitment of our candidates to act with civility and integrity while campaigning.
As campaign season is ratcheting up, this topic is more relevant than ever.
As a candidate, I have agreed to sign the Statement of Ethical Campaign Practices (found here: https://www.flaglerelections.com/Portals/Flagler/2022-Candidate-Ethical-Statement.pdf), and I’ve posted it on my social media so that the citizens of Palm Coast can hold me accountable.
After all, it is only the citizens and oneself that politicians should be accountable to.
As I navigate my way through the political arena, I am reminded of the words of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg about the late — and great — Justice Antonin Scalia: “'We are different, we are one,' different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve.”
I may not agree with a political opponent or a fellow citizen, and in that way, we can remain different.
But we are the same in that we are citizens, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons or daughters. We have thoughts, feelings, desires and heartaches.
So, as you observe my respect and consideration for an opinion or position of the “other side,” please, I beg you — don’t confuse my kindness for weakness.
Theresa Carli Pontieri,
Editor's note: Pontieri is running for the District 2 Palm Coast City Council seat.