Right Now it’s Time to Jump in the Conversation
There’s such a need for healing and healthy dialogue in our society today. Especially right now.
We can sit and complain. We can brood over how “the other side” is lost, how they are morally unscrupulous, how they are stupid or blinded or “deplorable.”
Or, we can learn to listen first (#ListenFirst) and be part of the solution.
That involves choosing to build bridges across the mental mindsets of people riven by partisan, racial, religious and other types of divides. We can choose both to listen — really listen — and to share. In that order.
The opportunity is NOW
This week we have a chance to do just that. This very week, April 8–13, 2019, has been designated National Week of Conversation. And the opportunities for Americans — and non-Americans with an interest in what’s going on in the U.S. and how it affects the world — to participate is right there before you.
Here’s the page I’ve found most helpful for getting the schedule of what’s going on: National Week of Conversation. You can be anywhere and participate, with an online connection and free Zoom software.
Throughout the week, you can learn and participate in conversations on Faith & Politics, Healthcare, Guns & Responsibility, Communicating with Care, Freedom, Media & Polarization and then several on Race, Religion & the American We Want to Be.
Truth is, several organizations and movements have sprung up in recent years in response to the growing divisions in the United States. Many of these are worthy of attention: Better Angels, National Conversation Project, Bridge the Divide (for young people), Unite America, and Vote Common Good, to name but a few. And, on a global level, there are groups like Global Changemakers (for young people) as well as FutureLearn’s free Improve Your Intercultural Competence Course.
Making it human and personal
I’m particularly partial, however, to this organization: LivingRoom Conversations. Why? Because #1 — It began in 2010, many years before the contentious 2016 U.S. election (when so many people actually woke up to the problems); and #2 — The approach, to me, is just right. (I guess a #3 is their website is fantastic! But hey, that’s just me.)
Let me explain. The basis of LivingRoom Conversations lies in the fundamental value of people-to-people solutions. When we know one another and communicate with one another, our understanding of “the other” changes. It’s at this individual (and small group) level, in the intimate environment of a living room, where real change — change of heart — can take place. This is how we grow empathy.
I also would also like to endorse the book I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening). This is a book specifically for those who identify as Christians in America, written by Sarah from the Left and Beth from the Right, two friends trying to understand each other and the issues by inviting us into their conversations. These women run a popular podcast, too: Pantsuit Politics. Both are worth checking out.
This is a global thing, too
And, lest you think this only applies for the U.S., many of the approaches, materials and resources these organizations offer can, indeed, be adapted to be used in other contexts and countries. I’ve mentioned a couple above. But there are so many ways to work towards bridging differences across cultures, ethnicities, languages and nationalities as well.
Our world is yearning for people who get this. All the growing nationalism, toxic geopolitics and blustering media of this age might convince us the path is too daunting. Yet, on the human level, people connecting positively with other people, regardless of divides — and sometimes because of divides — is the healthiest way for our world to move forward.
It’s also a best course of action for us to attempt to tackle the myriad of serious challenges ahead, many of which know no national borders. We need one another, and we have to stop pretending as if we do not.