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Responding to the petri dish of hate

By Brandy Mello Picture1.png

With the shift in the American political climate, a slew of controversial speakers are gaining widespread attention. They’ve always had the platform, but the current outrage and occasional violent response puts them on a global stage. When protests turn into riots, the controversial speaker becomes a constitutional martyr and the protester a destroyer of democracy.

As Americans, we have the constitutional freedom to choose religion, to form groups and to speak freely about our beliefs. The First Amendment offers protection of expression and speech, even hateful provoking speech. The United States Constitution does not police public speech of its citizenry. While hateful speech is constitutionally protected, acts of violence are not. In response to offensive speech, we have the right to counter in protest – peacefully.

The day Ann Coulter’s speaking event on the Berkeley campus was canceled, I participated in a Living Room Conversation about Free Speech on Campus. The discussion group consisted of two University students (one being a Berkeley student), a parent of a college student and two other parents of younger children. This is my takeaway from that exchange.



what the media says


By Debilyn Molineaux. Reprinted from Huffington Post.590b89f417000039005a4d93.png

Have you felt it? That societal agitation resulting in more stress, conflict and stubbornness? 

I have. All inside myself.

I find myself avoiding news, certain people and being more abrupt than normal. I want to actively fight against those who are bullies — but sometimes they are just my friends with a different, very strong opinion. This is the result of my internal agitation. My ability to listen is at an all time low. I pride myself on listening.

Not living up to my own standards adds more stress and agitation, leading to more conflict. AARGH!

I feel like my car just broke down. We were on our journey — paying attention to our lives, cogitating on what we were going to do next when… BAM! We threw a rod right through the case. In case you are not mechanically inclined, this is fatal for the car, pending a new engine. In real life, I get agitated for flat tires and other minor car inconveniences. Agitation is normal when dealing with inconvenience, disappointment and downright change of circumstances.


Living room conversations: a highly effective platform

By Sharon V. Kristjanson. Reprinted from Huffington Post.

I hosted a Living Room Conversation for the first time and was delighted with the outcome. We were six people from different walks of life, with a range of experiences and perspectives. We would not normally have crossed paths, much less shared a dinner table and a few bottles of wine together, but we had sufficient interest and comfort to talk for four hours instead of two!

Our topic was viewpoint diversity on campuses, and how to balance free speech with appropriate consideration to the impact of certain types of speech. At times, it seemed we wandered from the designated topic, but in fact we were laying out the complexity of the subject and revealing how it touches and is influenced by so many other factors. 

I was also struck by the sincerity of everyone wanting to contribute thoughtful ideas. We all remained fully engaged throughout the evening and we discussed many different issues and perspectives. Some listened more while others spoke more, as befit their personalities, but all participated. We wandered in and out of vulnerability, which is not easy to do with people we have just met, and this added depth. 


Who will save America?

By Mary Gaylord. Reprinted from Huffington Post.Captain_America_2_by_ittamar12.jpg

“If America is to be saved, it won’t be because we are us. It won’t be because some columnist wrote soothing words. It will be because enough of us decided America was worth fighting for, and did.” - Leonard Pitts Jr, America is still well worth fighting for

This week, I’ve found myself revisiting these words over and over again; turning them over in my head, trying to make sense of them; trying to find the real meaning; and the corresponding action required.

The first part’s easy — we’re not going to be saved just because “we are us.” America won’t be saved by simply believing that everything will turn out O.K. or by thinking somebody else will solve our problems. While some things do just seem to autocorrect, America, is not one of them.

Mr Pitts’ second statement also rings true. Yes, there is great power in the written word, and while it is one of many ways to fight for America it alone is not enough to save America.

So that brings us to the idea that saving America requires that enough of us decide America is worth fighting for and we get down to the business of doing it.


Grief and loss

By Debilyn Molineaux. Reprinted from Huffington Post.

Sitting here on a rare sunny day in the Pacific Northwest, I stop to reflect on life...and death. It’s been a long winter followed by a rough spring for me in Oregon. Among my work teams, we’ve lost a beloved mother, mother and father-in-laws, family friend and family pet in the last month. People we know have been diagnosed with cancers with varying treatment plans. Major change is obviously afoot. Somehow, we manage to continue working as a team through it all. Projects may take a little longer. Words come more slowly. Our compassion is engaged and we step up when others need to step away.


The bees vs. the butterflies = the ecology of politics: a fable

By Ralph Benko. Reprinted from Huffington Post.58e50ea516000027004d8e68.png

April 2 was the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s address to Congress asking for a Declaration of War. We promptly thereafter entered World War I. This centenary provides an opportunity to reflect on the ongoing war between the Democrats and Republicans.

Thus, a Fable of the Bees and the Butterflies.

In a recent Forbes.com column I explored the question of whether the struggle in Washington is one of, as Time Magazine framed it, Trump’s War on Washington or, rather, Washington’s War on Trump. This column ended up posted both to Facebook’s 100,000+ Liked UltraTrumpian Trump Revolution and the AntiTrumpian Coffee Party USA.

On my own Facebook page a merry discourse transpired between my friend Paul Gordon, a libertarian populist, and my First Cousin Jeff Landaw, a principled progressive. In response to Jeff, Paul invoked the concept of Hive, saying that “the D’s and Rs all operate on the left and right INSIDE that hive.”

Which raised an interesting point. Pretty much everyone has heard Aesop’s fable of the Grasshoppers and the Ants. On this centenary occasion, consider if you will Ralph’s fable of the Bees and the Butterflies….


United or divided? can living room conversations help build a real global community?

By Sabrina Moyle. Reprinted from Huffington Post.

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent manifesto calling for “humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community” around “our collective values” is daunting, if not naïve, in today’s political climate.

Political media is manufactured to inflame and perpetuate partisan passions to drive clicks, profits, and donations. It vilifies the other side. With every share, we become complicit in demonizing our friends, turning them into enemies. This is no foundation on which to build community.

Real community must be fostered in real bodies, acknowledging real feelings and not just “likes.” We can’t see eye-to-eye if we never look each other in the eye.

But what if we voluntarily choose to engage with the “opposition”? And, what if we do this in our bodies, away from incendiary headlines? Could this be a starting point for building a real global community?


Give them something to talk about

By Pedro Silva. Reprinted from Huffington Post.58cab1372c00002300feebf4.jpeg

“I don’t want to talk to them because they think too differently.”

“How can I have a conversation with someone who just seems to disagree with everything I think?”

“How can anyone agree with that line of thinking?”

These days it seems that conversations have a lot more in common with competitions than they do with discourses. The thought of people exchanging ideas and learning about and from one another is becoming increasingly rare. Rather, many of us experience the thought of deep dialogues in a manner similar to being summoned to court. It’s as if our opinions are on trial and we can’t help but be in defense. With this tendency, polarizations are appearing to grow at alarming rates and as a result many are reporting a general sense of powerlessness. For this reason, many people are seeking shelter in their siloes of homogeneity out of pure instinct.

Or at least that is the narrative that we have been hearing…



Is our (political) climate changing?

By Sean Sevy. Reprinted from Huffington Post

58c1bcaa27000018007491e1.pngIs climate change real? These days, that’s an issue of warm debate. Speaking of warm, let me suggest that perhaps the most severe issue these days isn’t the warming climate, but the warming political climate. In other words, when we try to have a constructive conversation about a sensitive subject like global warming, the conversation quickly turns hostile. Political climate change is real. So real, that when it comes to political issues in daily conversation, our ability to see the other side is extremely hazy amidst the toxic fumes of polarization. The environment is warming. It’s not at a natural rate. And it is a result of our own actions. So is there hope for reducing this blight?

I recently learned about an event in Salt Lake City called Climate Conversations. The event claimed to put “respectful dialogue” and “differing views about climate change” in the same room. I had never seen this stunt done before, so I signed up. The panel at this event had all the ingredients for what you’d expect to be a catastrophic disaster in climate change debate: an energy advisor for the pro-coal Governor’s Office, a professor at a church-owned University, a climate scientist, a habitat scientist, and a director from a conservative think tank. But they all agreed to be civil. In fact, the event included something called “civility bells,” where if the conversation got out of hand with any type of personal attacks, a volunteer would ring the bell. Alas, this debate did not require civility bells to simmer things down. But I’m sure anyone who wants that type of entertainment from vehement debate can just re-watch last year’s Hillary/Trump debates. For now, we won’t pick at the scab of last year’s debates. But let them be standalone evidence that political climate change is a real thing. I mean, how many times would those guys need a civility bell? But let’s get back to these climate debates.