With this text I’m raising a subject that’s unusual for this site. It’s not an easy topic. For about a year now we’ve all seen disagreements that have strained relationships everywhere. Just about all of us have friends and/or family members on opposite sides of the political divide — no matter which side we favor. No need to go into detail or try being preachy at this point; what I want to describe now is a year-long series of meetings that included fourteen people, seven at each end of the divide.
The first thing to notice is that the meetings took place at all and, in fact, they’ve continued for a year. Immediately that proves the possibility of real communication between people with opposite beliefs, even exceptionally strong beliefs. The next revelation is that, gradually over time, cross-currents of genuine respect and trust evolved within the group. No one convinced anyone of opposite persuasion to change views, but understanding was developed.
The example worth deriving from those gatherings is the process being used to extract order from apparent disorder. Rather than insisting on only one way to see everything (“my-way-or-the-highway”), individuals expressed reasons for their positions. Instantly that brings in categories and priorities; instead of one isolated issue there are multiple classes of issues. All of a sudden a question emerges about what’s most important. That at least paves the way toward exchanging opinions that can differ without seeming insane.
There’s nothing new about conflict resolution. For eons it’s been recognized that (1) most arguments (some escalating into fights or even wars) begin as misunderstandings and (2) drawing out reasons can prevent chaos. OK, it’s time to identify the source of that information about the group-of-fourteen. 60 Minutes on 2/25/18 showed one of the meetings. The discussion moderator for that one was Oprah. I’m not an Oprah follower (no discredit to her; with no football now, 60 Minutes is the only thing I watch at all) but I gotta sayit — her management of those conversations was flawless.
Full disclosure: I’m not a Trump fan. In keeping with the example just cited I’ll note just one of my reasons. The image of a toddler having to say goodbye to her dad (deported despite having no police record at all) is something I’ll never be able to dismiss.
Regardless of our feelings we need to get a grip on them. Divisions within the past year have risen to an alarming level. Allowing the damage to be permanent is to be avoided at all costs.