Yesterday, I heard on NPR a report about a group workshop held in Lagrange, Texas. The workshop consists of eight Republican and Democrat voters each with a purpose to reduce the temperature on polarization. In the piece called “Red/Blue Workshops try to bridge the political divide. Do they really work?” by John Burnett of NPR’s “All things considered,” we learned more about this and other sessions.
Here are a few excerpts with a link to an article at the below.
“‘I just see our country being torn apart with polarization. And so anything that we can do to work together as Americans and depolarize our conversations is important,’ retired tax lawyer Karl Schmalz tells the group before they get started. He’s serving as a co-moderator for the workshop.”
“Betsy Harwood, retired family therapist, Democrat: ‘I think that what we see here in this room is the true America. It’s a group of people who can get together and talk politely with each other and understand each other. It’s not what we see on the news or what we see in social media. That’s not the real America.'”
“Doherty is a Minneapolis family therapist and professor who modeled the workshops on his counseling experience: get antagonists to meet face to face. A recent paper by a group of political scientists concluded that the Red/Blue Workshops ‘significantly reduced polarization’ among undergraduate students at four universities, though the results dissipated over time.”
These sessions will not be panaceas, but they head us in the right direction. They are climbing a large mountain that has been built rock by rock by public relations strategists advising politicians to “fear the other.” It is their fault the PR people tell us. They are the enemy. They will destroy our country if we let them. My purpose is not to debate the veracity of claims, but instead to say we must be better at understanding the real issues, not what we are spoon fed by opinion hosts, conspiracy parrots or politicians whose currency is not consistently truthful.
So, what can we do? Be more informed by considering multiple sources of news. Recognize opinion hosts are not news people. One news network in court said in a defamation lawsuit do not misconstrue their most popular opinion host as one of their news people. And, some opinion hosts are less inclined to be truthful to garner ratings. My suggestion is to either not watch or listen to them, or just understand better what you are hearing.
Do not get your news from social media. As Bill Maher said in an ad for a comedy tour, do not argue about Brett Kavanaugh with someone on Facebook that you knew in the fourth grade. More than a few of these opinions recorded on social media are gleaned from questionable sources. Just because someone is smug when they argue with you does not make them right, it just means they are being smug.
Demand our politicians to be more truthful. To ask them to be always truthful is a bridge too far, as politicians like to pat themselves on the back and give more credit to themselves than is due. Yet, do not let them get away with overt untruthfulness or name-calling. The blame game and name-calling is now standard fare in the lexicon of most politicians. And, we need them to work together to solve problems and serve our needs. One sided legislation will not stand the test of time as most of our problems require time to be resolved or mitigated.
We need our politicians to be among our better angels, not our worse demons. If they cannot more consistently tell the truth, then they need to step aside and let someone who can take on the role. We deserve better than this.