Join me for a Zoom talk this Saturday, October 17, 2020
Yes, LEAPFROG is going live on Zoom this Saturday at 11 a.m. I hope you’ll join us.
Here’s the story.
Shortly after I launched my latest book, (see my November 20, 2020 post) one of my editors, Kelly Boyer Sagert, asked if I was planning to be in Ohio this fall. I assured her I always went to Ohio in the fall.
Man plans; God laughs.
Her local library was doing a series of presentations entitled, “Beyond the Nineteenth Amendment” and she wanted me to join them to talk about LEAPFROG: How to Hold A Civil Conversation in an Uncivil Era.
The flyer the Lorain Historical Society recently sent out included this important detail:
Join us for a chat online!
Here’s their flyer (adapted for formatting challenges)
While I look forward to my conversation with Kelly, I thought of you, my readers, who were so instrumental in guiding those old blog posts into the book. I thought it’d be grand to field a question or two from you on this critical topic. I hope you agree.
To join us in the Zoom room, you must email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will send you the link. Or call them at 440-245-2563 for more information.[learn_more caption=”Here’s the latest Introduction”] If we want to live in a civil society, we must be willing talk with those with whom we disagree. This is the premise with which I begin. But how do we do that? Particularly when the likelihood is high that it will go awry?
Conflict, disagreement, and misunderstanding can arise unexpectedly during the course of anyone’s day. We may get triggered, sucked into an argument we didn’t see coming, propping one set of facts up against another with neither side listening, and eventually wondering what the hell just happened.
After spending the last three years focused on this topic, I’m more convinced than ever that (1) we all benefit from ideas that challenge us and get us to think anew and (2) no matter our political, religious, or philosophical beliefs, we can disagree without being disagreeable.
As important as political conversations are, the ideas given here can be applied to any conversation you deem “difficult” from marital disagreements and parent-teen clashes to neighborhood standoffs and workplace disputes. We can disagree with someone we love and still love them. And so, perhaps a more inclusive subtitle would be, How to hold a difficult conversation at a difficult time.
In any case, the first goal of the conversations I describe here is understanding. A difficult conversation need not question the other’s judgment, engage in name calling, diminish the other person’s self-worth, or resort to threats or bullying. Of equal importance, these conversations are not intended to convert or convince.
Not intended, that’s the important point. One or the other of you may wind up changing your point of view. This is not to be negated but, it is important to understand this booklet will not work if you set out thinking one of you just needs to change.
Instead, think of your disagreement as a mystery that intrigues you both. Strive together to discover just where your impasse is, why it is you disagree so vigorously. What have each of you not understood until now? If you can think of it as an adventure you’re undertaking together, you’ll go further.
The need for people of diverse views to be able to talk together has a history as long as democracy itself, back to the Greeks. Socrates taught that civil discourse was a “dialectic” — a public dialogue to uncover truth — and would resolve conflicts within a society.
Later, Cicero, the Roman orator and statesman of the first century BC, introduced the term civil society (societas civilis) and held that human beings are inherently rational and have the capacity to gather for a common cause to maintain peace. That era ended when feudalism arrived and the idea of “Just War” preoccupied political thought until the Enlightenment of the 18th century, theoretically at least.
Civil conversations are hard to find these days. Someone says to us, “We have to talk” and we look for ways to run. But, if the idea of holding a difficult conversation for the purpose of healing our divided world seems too frightening or unrealistic at present, know that it has been done before.
Think of the negotiations in the early 1990s between the African National Congress (ANC) and South Africa’s ruling National Party, initially in secret, which led to the end of apartheid.
Think of Northern Ireland, and their seemingly endless internal wars between the Protestants and Catholics, the Loyalists and the Republicans.
Think of the drug war years in Colombia, and the way in which two warring factions came together: FARC and ELN.
Think of our own Civil War and of Lincoln’s call to find our “better angels.”
Three generations later, in the 1930s and ‘40s when fascism threatened to land on our shores, deep disagreements over electrical expansion into rural areas led to USDA programs we still have. Do you know how? Urban politicians went to rural farms across the Midwest and listened to them.
When I was growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, the Emily Post books on etiquette taught that, in polite conversation, we must stay away from two topics that are central to how we see ourselves: politics and religion. (I later learned that sex and money were equally taboo, but I digress.)
In those days, we’d have guests of divergent belief systems and opt for dinner party civility over possible discomfort among our guests.
These days, politics and religion are no longer taboo for we tend to surround ourselves with those who think and live and vote and perhaps even worship as we do. Ideological bubbles, some call them, and we all live comfortably within their familiar walls.
Today, the United States is struggling with countless issues — “God, guns, and gays” someone once alliterated. These issues have long been about who gets to decide who holds the power, and how porous the boundary is that separates the Haves from the Have-nots. Yet, our conversations too often get hung up debating semantics or proving who is right.
Gaps among our various demographic groups widen with each new poll. But we can meet these challenges, I believe, and we begin by learning to talk to one another.
If we don’t start today, then when? If not you, then who? [/learn_more]
NEXT WEEK: I’ll finish up the “treating CoVid like Racism” series with Step Four: Be Willing to Change Your Life To End It. And, in so doing, you’ll meet our new young man.