“Humans have always struggled with this sort of ‘us versus them’ potential. What we’ve also witnessed is sort of an alienating world.“~David Blatt
After 18 months of caution, this holiday season finally offers many of us a chance to commune with old friends and family. Yay? Nay? How do we feel about the contact? The conversations?
A lot has changed since the last time we headed over the river and through the woods. Not least is a collective intolerance for political viewpoints that don’t align with our own.
These are deeply partisan times to be sure. That said, is it possible for divided colleagues, friends, and family members to foster mutual respect for all POVs, even wind up standing on common ground?
Can we begin to reclaim civil discourse around our Zoom screens, cafe and familial dining tables alike?
Josh Lewis (a lifelong Conservative) and David Blatt (a committed Liberal) are test-driving a version of this complicated idea, facilitating conversations between reasonable, rational voices from opposite sides of America’s political discourse. Those of us about to cross into enemy territory armed only with a hot side dish and a bottle of wine will find David’s and Josh’s insight helpful for maintaining healthy debate around the holiday table.
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“We’re not saving the world, but this is the first step and what a lot of us––not just David and I, but a lot of us––are going to have to be doing. It’s slow and arduous work.”~Josh Lewis
Among the topics we discuss is the enduring appeal of uncivil discourse, a tactic that’s long stood as an editorial board favorite, amplifying outrage in everything from 17th-century broadsheets to thoroughly modern cable news. A great divide sells, especially if it’s a hyped-up version. “It’s not a coincidence that we’re seeing this high level of political polarization at the same time as we’re seeing economic inequality at historically high levels,” David says, cautiously adding that he holds out hope for the future.
Josh is also hopeful that restoring authentic dialogue will rebuild bridges. He offers several starting points. “I think the more we can strengthen what is healthy about certainly things such as religious institutions, families, and local communities––that place where we derive value and meaning in our own lives––I think that is one of the greatest weapons against the dangers of polarization, of potential demagoguery.”
David and Josh remind us that retracing our collective steps back to the civil middle is a marathon, not a sprint. Take heart even if a colleague, friend, or family member (or two) appears unwilling to dial down the angry rhetoric.
And, maybe, take an extra bottle of wine along just in case.
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