Many people in our country look forward to a few months from now when the turbulence of the election will pass and hopefully we will be on the down slope of the Covid-19 crisis. Yet many of us fear that the divisions in our nation, with all their negative consequences, will not go away easily or soon.
How do we heal these wounds? A group of Talbot County residents gathered last Friday afternoon to have a dialogue about that. There were five of us, Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, who felt that a healthy first step would be to listen respectfully to different points of view about the central issues driving this divide, and how can we begin to close it.
The focus of the conversation took two paths—substance of and fuel for the divide. The substance portion touched upon some of the most significant topics that divide our country–violence in the cities (and elsewhere), inequality, climate change and the economy. In our two hours together we only scratched the surface of these issues but certainly gained insights into them. Most importantly, we all agreed we benefited from listening to other views, and we left the meeting motivated to help bridge the divide.
The fuel included cable news, the divisive conduct of our political leaders and social media. We agreed that the nation would be a better one if the news channels would deliver impartial, comprehensive, important news, and present both sides of an issue in a thoughtful manner. The conventional wisdom is that there is no market for this sort of programming but those of us in this group would absolutely tune in if it were available. We discussed how to influence our leaders to see the harm they are causing our country by not working in a bipartisan way, and constantly demeaning the opposing party. We barely touched on social media but recognized its negative influence.
We are realistic enough to know that change is very difficult to bring to fruition, but there are practical steps all of us can take. These include:
– Encourage these types of conversations amongst people with different political persuasions.
– Organize community events with influential speakers and citizens to address this “divisions” issue.
– Regularly read and share responsible journalism and analysis from those with different views and really try to understand the rationale for those opposing views.
– Call out sweeping condemnations of other groups or viewpoints, even when they come from within “our side”.
These are small steps but they point us in the right direction for healing our country.
We encourage everyone in our community to find friends/neighbors who have varied perspectives and have a similar conversation. If we believe in the future of our democracy, than we should all want to take steps to make our nation better—talking and respectfully listening is a good start.
Ed Cassidy, Paul Hanrahan, Curt Reintsma, Bobby Van Fossan, Harvey Zendt