The following are three dictionary definitions of “An inside job.”

>> A crime committed by someone who is closely involved with the targeted person or group.

>> A crime committed by someone working or living at the scene of the crime.

>> A crime perpetrated against an establishment by someone associated with the victimized establishment.

Some of us have read enough books and novels and watched enough movies and television programs, both past and present, that we can identify characters that fit in one or more of the above definitions. However, my focus is in part on the words of Frank Outlaw and their applicability to what is happening in the United States of America today.

>> “Watch your thoughts, they become words.”

>> “Watch your words, they become actions.”

>> “Watch your actions, they become habits.”

>> “Watch your habits, they become character.”

>> “Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Some of us have lived long enough to see some of the ugliness of our country’s history seemingly being repeated. There is a danger of us becoming desensitized to what was undoubtedly considered disrespectful, uncivil and unlawful because of the frequency of such incidents occurring today.

Just when men and women of good will from diverse backgrounds, professions and faiths come together in our communities to build bridges across racial lines, we hear words like “Go back where you came from” being resurrected among some of the leadership in our country. Such expressions pull the scab off internal wounds for persons of color.

One is reminded of “The Letter From the Birmingham Jail,” written by Dr. Martin Luther King, where he addressed the ungodly actions of several members of the Reverend Clergy on the sin of segregation. How refreshing it is today when several members of the clergy have boldly denounced the hate-filled rhetoric and divisive leadership being demonstrated regularly from people who as “leaders” are to be held to a higher standard for all.

One of the major reasons some people are slow to trust the genuine efforts of godly people who work tirelessly toward a united community and America is the works of those who try to “dress up” wrong and ungodliness. Neither a tuxedo nor an evening gown with the finest shoes will do the trick. To borrow the words of Dr. King, these men and women who want to turn back the clock want to achieve their magic “with a witches’ brew of bigotry, prejudice, half-truths, and whole lies.”

And that, my brothers and sisters, might be the possible cause for seeing the moral values of America destroyed from an inside job. If we are not careful, we will not have to concern ourselves with Russia, North Korea or any other foreign country with nuclear weapons. Just let some of us keep circling our wagons and aiming our guns toward each other.

The practice of civility, the formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech, is an imperative to counteract what is happening in some areas of our society today. Starting at home and then moving to our schools, faith houses, businesses, governments and elsewhere, why can’t we live in courteousness, politeness, good manners, graciousness, consideration, respectfulness, and pleasantness?

Thomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, founders of The Institute for Civility in Government, define civility as “claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else in the process.” They go on to say that “Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions and teaching others to do the same."

Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic actions. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard and nobody is ignored. And civility begins with us.

Words are the currency of thinking. We can use them to tear down, insult or encourage. They can be used to enhance peace or provoke war. While sitting in the waiting lounge of my car dealership, I had a conversation with a man who didn’t look like me, yet he was a man of faith. He talked about the need for more love in the people of our country. Love is the force that brings out the best in family members in our homes, neighbors in our communities, and employers and employees in the workforce.

Too, love is what unites churches. There is a need for each of us to be instruments of peace and architects of positive interpersonal and group relationship building throughout our society, with all people.

It’s an inside job.

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Allie E. Brooks Jr. is a retired educator who was the Florence School District One superintendent and formerly the principal at Wilson High School.