One exercise is designed with great simplicity: we listen quietly to one person at a time, to learn why folks on the other side personally, individually, hold their political views. And we share, uninterrupted or derided, a personal, individual rationale for our own beliefs.
With some fear and trepidation, I'm going in. I believe we develop certain views for a variety of complex reasons, based in emotion, lived experience, belief, and thought. I absolutely hold that my own views on many issues are the ones that are morally right. But when I feel hate, scorn, self-righteousness, and dismissal, I am wrong. And so are you. You may not see it as morally wrong to hate people whose views you see as a menace - I understand that. But wrong can also mean unrealistic, ineffectual, or destructive.
Note: the intent of these exercises is not to convert anyone, or even generate respect for a point of view. Come on now. It can’t be uncommon to leave the workshop still wondering “How on earth can those people believe that crap??!” But it is also reportedly typical to leave with a decrease in bitterness and a new/renewed vigor for healing our hostile political climate.
My plan; attend a couple workshops as a participant and weigh a deeper involvement, maybe signing up for the moderator training. Of course, I may bolt halfway through, tossing the rosy shades in the parking lot.
My cynical friends (mwah) like to dub me the chick in the title of this post. And absolutely: I'm optimistic and idealistic. But I am embarking on something gritty and brave, and I want credit. I’ve scoured this group’s website, watched the videos, and read the posts. This is going to be hard as hell. Allowing into my personal space the demons of others I have railed against. Confronting my own demons.
But y’all. We claim to rue the loss of the “loyal opposition” model of governing and discourse. Presumably, we know it isn’t coming back on its own. No matter where we place blame (*cough* started in the Reagan era, rages on the GOP) for how we got here, hand-wringing won’t change it, ducking behind resignation won’t change it, and screaming “You people are crazy!” won’t change it. We could try to outnumber the other side, and I think that’s the real goal for some of us. (That’s fine, but then stop crying about our discourse/divide.) For me, the most powerful antidote for despair is action, and a chance at recreating a civilized democracy is worth the pain.
I have agreed to sit tomorrow and hear out people whose views, in my estimation, reflect misinformation, prejudice, fear, and callousness. My stomach will knot. My anger will seethe. But what else will these interactions bring? Will I see my political foes in different ways? Or will I throw up my hands and realize, no, no, there are no better angels here? I’m. So. Curious.
Questions or thoughts for me to consider as I travel to Blacksburg? Post them here, and let’s get this party started.