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Talk about it: Movement works to bridge political divisions through dialogue

BY KARINA IOFEE, reposted from East Bay Times.


BERKELEY — What do you get when you put a libertarian from Kentucky, a Trump supporter from Louisiana, a UC Berkeley student and the founder of a liberal political movement in the same room?

A discussion about some of the most pressing issues facing the country that teaches Bay Area liberals a few things about the way conservatives see the world and vice versa.

It’s no joke.

Living Room Conversations, created by a Berkeley mediator and founder of liberal political organizing group MoveOn.org, is a fledgling movement to tackle the national political rift brought to the forefront by last year’s presidential election. Like any war, it has led to family feuds, arguments with longtime friends or simply isolation from anyone with differing viewpoints.


Arlie hochschild: looking for answers from berkeley to the bayou

By Daphne White. Reprinted from Berkeleyside.


UC Berkeley Sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her living room. Photo: Daphne White

Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild — author of the best-selling book Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right — wrote her first book when she was nine years old. You could think of Colleen the Question Girl as a prequel to Strangers in their Own Land, which tries to make sense of why Trump supporters in Louisiana’s ‘cancer alley’ feel loyal to the oil companies who pollute their air and water, while despising the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Why don’t bears have horns?” “Why aren’t zebras plaid?” “Why are some houses so big and others so small?” Hochschild wrote in her first book. Even as a child — and Hochschild readily admits that Colleen was modeled after herself — she was asking difficult questions. “It was about a little girl who was trouble to the adults in her life,” she said. “She’s a little radical, and she was always trying to get her father’s attention.” Colleen starts out as a girl who asks too many questions but, eventually, she becomes the town’s question girl. “Question-asking spread all over town,” the young Hochschild wrote. “And over the years to come, questions flew out of Colleen’s dreams into a wind that blew all around the world.”


Let's talk: the art of understanding and repairing our differences

By Robin Stern. Reprinted from The Hill.


© Getty Images

In the wake of the presidential election, feelings are running high in America, with half of the electorate rejoicing and the other half panicking. The divide we felt in the nation in the run-up to the election now seems more intense than ever. How can we understand our differences? How can we begin to repair them? 

In the world of emotional intelligence, we close the gaps in our understanding of people “on the other side” by first being aware of our own feelings and stories, and then getting curious about the feelings and stories on the other side of the conversation. This is not easy.

A conversation that includes opposing viewpoints can feel like looking at the classic vase-or-face picture. We alternate between seeing one or the other. But to see the entire picture — or hold an integrated conversation — requires that all parts be viewed simultaneously. 

This can be hard. When we teach emotional intelligence, we first teach people how to recognize and regulate their own feelings. Sometimes that involves taking a pause between feeling triggered and responding.


Preserving post-election harmony this holiday season

By Suzanne Potter. Reprinted from Public News Service.


Experts have tips on how to politely discuss politics, if you must, with your relatives and coworkers during the holidays. (Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile)

SANTA FE, N.M. – For many, feelings are still raw after the presidential election, which could make for some difficult conversations over the holidays. So, experts in productive conversation have a few tips to help survive the season with your relationships intact. 

Parisa Parsa, executive director of the company Essential Partners, notes that you can only control your side of the conversation. She suggests you start by asking yourself a few questions.

She asks, "Why do you want to connect? What do you hope to learn? Are you ready to be in a grounded enough place to resist angry outbursts? And are you willing to try to understand or will you feel the need to persuade or get them to concede, on points of disagreement?"


Utah citizen summit explores ways to bridge state, nation after divisive election season

By Marjorie Cortez. Reprinted from KSL.

SALT LAKE CITY — In what was part group therapy and part community conversation, participants in the Utah Citizen Summit spent a full day talking and listening Saturday about the best way to move forward after the divisive election season.

While many of the participants were elected officials and community leaders, bridging divides and reaching out to people who feel afraid or marginalized is everyone's job, said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

"We have the responsibility to comfort them and tell them, 'We're in this together. You're a citizen. You're my neighbor. You're my friend. I’m not going to be silent and let something happen to you. We're in this together,'" Gill said.

Catherine M. Stokes, a community leader and a former public health care administrator in Illinois, said Utahns and Americans need to take inventory of who they are as the nation strives to move forward.


Discussing trump and clinton and how really to make america great and good again

By Ralph Benko. Reprinted from Forbes.

This week over 60 million Americans likely will vote for Clinton and another over 60 million for Trump.  The way to get America back on track is for us to listen to one another irrespective of the outcome. What happens after election day is up to us, much more so than it is up to whomever we elect.

We voters are ultimately in charge of the political culture. We can, if we choose, readily put that culture to rights and America back on track. Will we so choose?

Some are already well begun.

On November 2, a unique and startling high profile conversation was conducted by the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College. I, as a representative of livingroomconversations.org, served as co-moderator. Professor Roger Berkowitz, Director of the Arendt Center and Associate Professor of Politics, Philosophy, and Human Rights, served as chief moderator.

The event was no mere academic exercise. It set a new direction, or, rather, a return to old and precious classical liberal first principles.

Hannah Arendt was one of the signal classical liberals of the 20th century. The Center named for her at Bard is keeping lifted her lamp beside the golden door. Since politics is derivative of culture this is a very big deal.


Election letter from the bishop of el camino real

By Mary Gray-Reeves. Reprinted from Episcopal News Service.

We are the Solution: Election Day and Reconciliation

Dear Friends,
Besides our diocesan convention which begins tomorrow, our nation is very much on my mind. I know it is on your mind too. I know there is significant distress among us as we watch the news, listen to debates, and worry about the economy, international relations, our kids, our future, our world.

These are not irrational concerns or worries. They are legitimate and arise out of a sense of violation to our values as a nation as well as out of our personal political perspectives. Indeed, I find myself more troubled not by differences of political opinion, but that we seem unable – and even unwilling – to find a way through those differences. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. Worldviews are colliding.  This is not a battle with a quantified battlefield. It is in the air we breathe. We cannot distance ourselves from it; “It” is us.

I do not need to tell you to pray or to vote. I believe you know these things and are living them to the best of your ability. I do believe I need to remind us all that democracy “only works if we work it.”


Eight ways to strengthen our democracy beyond voting

By Chuck Collins. Reprinted from CommonDreams.

The strength of our civic life depends on what we do outside elections.


'Especially after the deeply toxic experience of 2016,' writes Collins, 'we all need to step up to protect our real democracy.' (Photo: bonsaimovie / flickr)

Throughout this trying election season, we’ve been told how much is at stake with our vote. But the success of any democracy depends on continuing to pay attention long after we cast our ballots.

So let’s pledge to strengthen our democracy with a few resolutions to focus our intentions and keep us moving forward over the next four years.

 1. Change your media diet.

 Way too much ink, airtime, and mental real estate has been consumed by the horserace reporting on elections — it’s all about who’s winning and losing. So unplug from the talk shows that interview pollsters and engage in partisan bickering all day. Find the commentators and independent media outlets that strengthen our civic life.

 2. Turn off corporate media.

 This election has been very profitable for big media corporations, but bad for our democracy. As CBS chairman Les Moonves remarked, “Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? The money’s rolling in and this is fun.”

Our differences have been compounded by media reports that amplify the loudest and most partisan utterances. Election coverage this year has encouraged us to view one another as cartoon caricatures, not neighbors.


How will we heal our divided nation? time to think post-2016 election

by Liz Hume. Reprinted from The Hill.

As we inch closer to the U.S. presidential election, America has endured another week in which the politics of hate and fear have taken center stage. Regardless of the election’s outcome, the campaign has exposed and exacerbated class, race, sex, and ideological divisions in the United States — and it is clear we need to repair these divisions by engaging in a process of dialogue and reconciliation.

While previous presidential campaigns focused on what brings us together as Americans, this election has sunk to new lows in exposing our differences, in painful, insulting ways.

While the politics are hateful, this focus on “difference” is actually in keeping with our deepest neurological wiring.

In an interview for the Shift Network’s “Summer of Peace,” Brandeis Professor Mari Fitzduff discussed research highlighting that human beings have a biological disposition to resist change of any kind, and that we tend to feel more comfortable with those “like us.”


Teaching the art of conversation during a divisive election year



By Jackie Zubrycki. Reprinted from Education Week.

It's often tough for teachers to figure out how to talk about political issues or current events in class. During a divisive election year, it's even more difficult. 

The news site AllSides.com and the nonprofit Living Room Conversations recently released a set of lessons aimed at helping teachers navigate those conversations as part of a program called AllSides for Schools. It's called "Elections and Relationships," and the goal is to teach young people in grades 8-12 how to examine controversial topics from all sides and discuss them civilly, even when they disagree. 

The heads of the organizations that created "Elections and Relationships" point out that their partnership models the kind of discourse they'd like to see in classrooms. John Gable, the founder of AllSides.com, and Joan Blades, Living Room Conversations' founder, have different political views—Blades identifies as a progressive, while Gable is more conservative.

Read More.