Engagement is more productive than hate. Knowledge is more powerful than ignorance. With this in mind, I’ve been looking for ways to interact with people whose political views are opposed to mine. I worry about the world I’m leaving my grandchildren – a feeling shared, I hope, by other grandparents and parents- no matter their political views.
Attending a “Talking Across the Political Divide” workshop sponsored by Better Angels, I practiced a few basic communication techniques. Founded in 2016, this non-partisan organization strives to bring politically disparate Americans together in an effort to unify the nation. In a crowd however of majority liberal-leaning individuals, the conversations were more role-playing than actual scenarios, so using “I” messages, like “I hear that you believe…” or “I understand…” seemed a bit contrived. Yet I could see how these methods may open paths to a civil discussion.
However, there are some issues and beliefs I can’t and won’t tolerate and am prepared to argue, loudly. For instance, Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comment about a supporter: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” I find heinous and deplorable. This is racism that shouldn’t be condoned. If this is what the other side believes, I can’t accept it. More people need to hear and heed the famous lyrics from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, “You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
But then President Trump announced his support of revising the country’s prison and sentencing laws—a bipartisan initiative called the First Step Act already passed by the House that would change federal policies that incarcerated African-American offenders at much higher rates than white offenders. The bill includes funding for anti-recidivism programs and other measures that would affect tens of thousands of current inmates and future offenders.
Bi-partisanship can work, obviously. Let’s hope the new Congress, with all the fresh, diverse faces, will work together to build the bridges needed to preserve our democracy and make the world a better place—for my grandkids and yours.