The Year of Living Dangerously

One of my favorite movie lines is from The Year of Living Dangerously:

“You do whatever you can about the misery that’s in front of you. Add your light to the sum of light.”

The character speaking was Billy Kwan, played by Linda Hunt (cast alongside a young Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver). Though he was speaking of poverty in Indonesia, it doesn’t seem like a half-bad general admonition for a way to live a life.

At the foundation of The Village Square is the concept that, when it comes to politics, we’re in need of a bit of light right about now (and the big-for-our-britches ambition that we can contribute to the sum). Dr. Law, co-chair of our board of directors characterized us as seeking “less heat, more light.”

Of late, we’ve witnessed the growth of partisan online blogs, where people who generally agree with each other “talk” (and sometimes yell). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s civic engagement, it can be “light” but too often it turns into “heat.” Too many of us now belong to a side which pitches half an argument. Two sides with half an argument each is no substitute for citizens who understand a whole argument.

Here at The Village Square blog, we’ll strive for whole arguments. If we care about truth telling by public servants, we must care about truth telling by all public servants, on the right and the left. If we care about media accuracy, we must care about media accuracy whether it benefits the right or the left.

And as we launch our Village Square, we need to resist the temptation to vilify an average citizen on the “other” side, who is, in reality, our neighbor down the street, the nice woman at the bookstore, our kid’s softball coach. It’s so much harder to hate “people” when you meet them face-to-face.

That doesn’t mean becoming a doormat and failing to pitch or even appear to believe in your argument, as good argument is fundamental to The Village Square. But argument must incorporate a larger perspective that allows us to argue AND hold the tension of opposites at the core of our democracy. Maybe in these partisan times, our new forum will be our own version of “The Year of Living Dangerously?”

And, if there is anyone out there still listening to anything other than the sound of his or her own voice, maybe someone will notice.