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Posts Tagged ‘differences’

Photo: Greta Rybus for the Boston Globe
Carolyn Lukensmeyer, who leads the National Institute for Civil Discourse, hosted a civility workshop in Damariscotta, Maine, that drew more than 100 people.

Here’s an idea I hope will catch on: speaking civilly to people with different views. My friend Nancy attends a Concord group that does that and she loves it, despite her horror at some of the things other participants say.

Nestor Ramos writes at the Boston Globe about a civility exercise in Maine. “If a sudden, smiling plague of newfound civility sweeps the nation, infecting partisans on the left and right with virulent strains of respect and dignity, maybe it will have started here, in an idyllic town on the river.

“More than 100 Mainers showed up at a Quaker meetinghouse here for a forum about how to be civil while discussing politics — or in other words, how to talk to your uncle about Trump without devolving into red-faced shouting and sarcasm. In a left-leaning town of about 2,000 in a starkly divided county, it wasn’t quite group therapy. But it was something close.

“ ‘You wouldn’t be here tonight if you didn’t think this was serious,’ said Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the University of Arizona-based National Institute for Civil Discourse, who came to Damariscotta to lead the civility training. Maine is one of four states where the organization is launching an initiative called Revive Civility. …

“People came because they couldn’t talk to their friends and their neighbors, they said, or because their children were barely speaking to each other. Some said they’d come because they simply couldn’t bring up anything political anymore.

“ ‘I have a couple of friends who are quite liberal and we just agreed not to talk about it,’ said David Spector, a conservative voter from nearby Newcastle, who came because he’s tired of what he sees as increasing incivility in political discourse. …

“Civility doesn’t mean agreement, of course, and there are some divides that no amount of respect will bridge. But we’ve reached the point at which we regard even those who earnestly disagree with us on matters of legitimate debate as mortal enemies. Civility demands only that you see them as people, and treat them with respect.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.

More on how to do an event like this here.

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Today I wanted to share several links on the power of getting to know those with views that are opposed to yours. It’s not something I’m especially good at, but I’m sure there are few things more important.

ArtsJournal posted a New York Magazine/”Science of Us” link about “the contact hypothesis” recently.

Jesse Singal wrote, “In the last few months I’ve found a bit of solace and much-needed solidity in a social-psychological idea that has been developed for the better part of the last century: the contact hypothesis.

“It’s the simple, inspiring idea that when members of different groups — even groups that historically dislike one another — interact in meaningful ways, trust and compassion bloom naturally as a result, and prejudice falls by the wayside.

“The contact hypothesis, or contact theory as it’s sometimes known, is a really powerful, promising idea for a country like the United States — one that is big and diverse and whose national conversation on a host of subjects ranging from poverty to crime is veined through with implicit and explicit racism. …

“[For example,] if you could get more non-Muslims to interact with Muslims, whether as neighbors or business partners or in a host of other contexts, [the percentage of those with bias] would likely drop. And while this idea sounds idealistic, there’s solid evidence behind it — significantly more than there is behind other ideas, like corporate diversity trainings for reducing prejudice that focus more on information and awareness than personal relationships. …

“As I read about [the work of LindaTropp, a social psychologist and contact-theory expert at the University of Massachusetts Amherst] and spoke with Tropp, I kept thinking about the airport protests [this year].

“Suffice it to say that many of the protesters were simply there because they thought it was the right thing to do, because they were motivated by politics or religion or their social networks or whatever else. But think about how much more potent that drive is when you know and value and worry about people who could be personally affected: Think about the difference between I am protesting this policy because it is wrong and I am protesting this policy because it is wrong and could hurt people I care about.

“That’s the ultimate promise of the contact hypothesis: You don’t need fancy educating or lecturing or anything else to get people to treat one another better. To a certain extent, you just need to get them to interact on the same level, and progress will follow.”

Two favorite examples of the power of human contact: Parents Circle, in which Israelis and Palestinians who’ve lost loved ones to the conflict come together, and Kids4Peace, summer camps for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian youth to get to know one another.

Also note this Guardian story about a descendant of General Custer reaching out to the Dakota Access Pipeline tribes!

Photo: David Valdez 
Alisha Custer – whose lineage traces back to the US army commander who led the 19th century wars against Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors – meets with Standing Rock members.

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