On this July 4th, I’m reading Authentic Patriotism by Stephen P. Kiernan. You should too. Here’s Kiernan about the origins of this very day, 243 years ago:
The colonists rebelled not only to free themselves from the yoke of British rule but also in order to reject the stratification of British society. They fought to bring to life one of the Enlightenment’s highest ideals: a new and nobler definition of what a human being is.
According to progressive thinkers of the eighteenth century, people did not need to bow to someone whose sole claim to superiority over them was birth… In the New World, in other words, merit alone would count. A man should advance not because of which family he was born into I but by virtue of his intellect, character, exertion, and luck.
Kiernan writes about what transpired in the spring of 1776 in New York Habor:
There George Washington and the fledgling colonial army had gathered after an unexpected victory in Boston. At the time the colonies did not possess a navy, not even a single ship. To demonstrate his power, the king sent warships to New York that May and June, foremost among them the sixty-four gun HMS Asia. Soon the British added two fifty-gun ships, the Centurion and Chatham, then the Phoenix with its forty guns, next the thirty-gun Greyhound with an army general aboard. These ships also bore tens of thousands of troops. The king then added the Rose, as well as the Eagle-another sixty-four-gun ship, this one commanded by the fearsome Admiral Lord Richard Howe. Colonists spied five lore ships arriving one day, eight another, twenty another. By late June the harbor and its outer reaches were crammed with some four hundred ships, including seventy-three warships and eight ships of the line with fifty or more guns each. It was the largest military force ever dispatched by any nation on earth.
And what did the colonists do that July? How did they reply to his terrifying display of power and glory?
They declared their independence. They cataloged their grievances, explained their reasons, and announced their permanent separation from Great Britain. The bonds were dissolved, the ropes that tied the colonists to the monarchy permanently cut.
It was not mere impudence that this act of rebellion displayed. It was character. It was determination. The king had failed to realize that every step he took to suppress the colonists, to intimidate them, to reinforce their inferiority, only invigorated their growing conception of what a human being is.
This is just so good, I can’t think of a single thing to edit out of it. Donald Miller writes on faith issues and he could possibly be a one-person Village Square all by himself: Donald Miller “has appeared at such diverse events as The Democratic National Convention and the Veritas Forum at Harvard.” (For those of you keeping track, this must be credited to (who else but) Internet Surf Queen Lea.)
Back when I was hanging out at Reed College, I was pleased to be in an environment where truth mattered more than ego, or rather where people didnâ€™t associate their identity with their ideas. What I mean is, finding truth was more important than being right. And because finding truth was more important than being right, students were able to learn.
At Reed, discussing a philosophical or even scientific idea around a conference table did not look like a debate. Rather, it looked like a group of students attempting to put together a jig-saw puzzle. If a piece didnâ€™t happen to fit, that was par for the course. You simply set it aside and worked together to make progress.
When we begin to associate our ideas with our identities (I am good because I am right) we lose the ability to be objective. And rather than learning to learn, we simply learn to defend.
To be certain, there are basic truths we must defend, but we donâ€™t defend these ideas from our egos. Dr. Henry Cloud says that truth must go hand in hand with grace in order to be effective. There must be truth, but there must also be acceptance, regardless of whether somebody disagrees. This methodology frees the person to make an objective decision. When we become angry or condescending we take the truth and wrap it in a toxic-candy shell and get frustrated when people donâ€™t like it. Truth wrapped in grace is more easily digested.
So my question is, do you take it personally when somebody disagrees with you? Here are some things I try to remember when engaging in a conversation in which there are differing opinions:
1. Truth is not My Truth, itâ€™s Just Truth: My ideas were not really my invention. Even if I was the first person to consider an idea, itâ€™s still something I stumbled upon. I shouldnâ€™t take it personally when somebody doesnâ€™t agree. They arenâ€™t rejecting me, they are rejecting an idea.
2. Methodology is Part of the Message: When I get defensive and then condescending, what I associate my ideas with an offensive subtext, and that association is very strong to the hearer. Imagine having a conversation with somebody who has terrible breath, standing there and smelling their putrid hot air as they talk. Itâ€™s the same with your attitude toward somebody when youâ€™re discussing an idea.
3. Without a Loving Heart, I am Like a Clanging Cymbal: If I donâ€™t genuinely care about the people Iâ€™m talking to, Iâ€™ll be received like a guy standing there clanging cymbals together. The Bible makes a strong connection between a persons heart and their tongue. We tend to think we talk with our tongues alone, but the Bible says we talk with our tongues and our hearts. Corinthians 13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
4. The Other Person has Sovereignty: Even if I think the other person is completely wrong, they have a right to their beliefs. I can simply state what I believe and do so in kindness and thatâ€™s really it. If Iâ€™m trying to bully somebody into my way of seeing things, Iâ€™m not respecting the sovereignty of the person I am talking with.
5. I Could be Wrong: What we most want from the person we are talking to is for them to see things from our perspective and agree. That being said, though, are you willing to see things from their perspective? If not, try listening to their perspective then repeating it back to them. Ask them if you got it right, and if you did, say you will think about it. Then present your idea, too, and ask them if they understand your position. To be honest, they may not be as open as you, but once the conversation is over, I assure you they will have a new respect for you, and believe me, they will consider your ideas more respectfully. And besides, the truth is they could be right.
We’ve got this quaint Village Square-ism called “68% solutions” which I’m about to let you in on. 68% solutions refers to problem solving that works to widen consensus. We contrast this idea with the trend toward 51% politics, which seeks only the barest majority to act and relies on tactical strong-arming to get it. Once you’ve got the 51%, it’s winner-take-all. America’s all about 51% politics these days and we operate in an entirely different civic environment than our grandparents did because of it.
Our crazy number is derived from the theoretical 68.2% of a population within one standard deviation of the mean. This approach considers the more challenging engagement between the political left and right critical to creating intelligent solutions. We even made our memberships $68 to drive home the point.
Back in the day, we might have called this statesmanship. When elected, partisan politicians were expected to work with their political foes to govern. They were expected to at least make a showing of representing citizens who didn’t vote for them. Today if you didn’t vote for the winning politician, after they’re elected they just give you the finger.
The primary concept behind 68% solutions isn’t exactly centrism. In a vibrant civic dialogue, good solutions can and do sometimes come from the political extremes. While well – er – extreme, the fringe can be the canary in the coalmine in guarding an important idea that the rest of us just don’t notice in all of our moderation. If you slide back their volume, they may have a point of sorts. So if you’re seeking 68% solutions, the key is that you’re constructively engaged across diversity.
68% solutions aren’t about high tea and crumpets or a mushy middle of not really believing anything. A healthy civic dialog can get difficult. Chairs sometimes fly in small New England town halls of yore, but at the end of the day the person who threw the chair is still your neighbor so you’ve got to at least try hard to move on past it.
You may need sugar.
68% solutions are more aspirational and intentional than realistic. By advocating 68% solutions we are asking to at least wonder how we can widen the consensus in seeking to solve a particular problem. It’s fairly unlikely we’ll actually get to 68% consensus on much of anything. But it’s starting the journey pointed an entirely different direction.
And isn’t it high time we point another direction…
Village Square Co-Chair, Tallahassee Community College President Bill Law, named St. Petersburg College president:
The post-Carl Kuttler era began Tuesday when the St. Petersburg College board of trustees chose William D. Law Jr. as the school’s next president. The selection of Law, the 61-year-old president of Tallahassee Community College, was touted as a safe choice in a climate of tightening financial times that could propel the school past months of negative publicity that followed Kuttler’s surprise resignation last year. “(Law) is tried and true,” said trustee W. Richard Johnston. “He’s geared in his career to handle an institution like this.”
… They certainly would endorse our strategy (if only they knew what it was). Our project We the Wiki, currently busily being built as part of our Knight Foundation project, will not allow for anonymous participation. You write it, you own it. We think anonymous commenting is one of the things that has caused our national dialogue to jump the shark and we think it needs to be un-jumped.
Yesterday’s New York Times features a piece on newspapers that are rethinking their anonymous comments policy:
When news organizations, after years of hanging back, embraced the idea of allowing readers to post comments online, the assumption was that anyone could weigh in and remain anonymous. But now, that idea is under attack from several directions. The Washington Post plans to revise its comments policy, and one of the ideas under consideration is to give greater prominence to commenters who use their real names. The New York Times, The Post and many other papers have moved in stages toward requiring
that people register before posting comments, providing some information about themselves that is not shown onscreen.
The Huffington Post soon will announce changes, including ranking commenters based in part on how well other readers and trust their writing. â€œAnonymity is just the way things are done. Itâ€™s an accepted part of the Internet, but thereâ€™s no question that people hide behind anonymity to make vile or controversial comments that they might not choose to make in their real names,â€ said Arianna Huffington, a founder of The Huffington Post.
â€œI feel that this is almost like an education process. As the rules of the road are changing and the Internet is growing up, the trend is away from anonymity.â€
Just stumbled upon this old interview by former Florida Governor Reubin Askew in a Florida Trend interview:
I believe partisanship is very important to the process. The very fact that you have separation of powers encourages conflict. That’s what it’s intended to do. When you hear that the House and Senate are bickering again, remember it’s the system that encourages them to bicker. You may not like some of that. But if everyone gets along sweet and roses, you wonder how much is going on behind closed doors…
On the question of ethics, I look at life as a continuum on which one side is dark and the other side is light. What happens to a lot of good people is that they get marginalized. They will rationalize that one decision in the very lightest gray. The next time it’s a little darker. Then the next time it’s imperceptible. Then one day they wind up in the dark, and they don’t know how they got there.
What the heck are 68% solutions?
68% solutions work to widen consensus. We contrast this idea with the trend toward 51% politics, which seeks only the barest majority to act and relies on tactical strong-arming to get it. 68% is derived from the theoretical 68.2% of a population within one standard deviation of the mean. This approach considers the more challenging engagement between the political left and right critical to creating intelligent solutions. 68% solutions are more durable solutions that transcend ideology, discourage political gutterball, outlast the next election cycle and create a stronger foundation on which to build lasting results.
Michael Smerconish, Philadelphia Talk Radio show host, who just made what seems to have been a tormented decision to change his political affiliation from Republican to Independent, talked to Chris Matthews last night on Hardball:
“We live in a world of media fiction. Where talk radio and your business everything gets presented in black/white red state/blue state left/right terms. And I don’t think that’s the way the real world is. It’s not the way I carry about my life as exemplified by people I meet on a day to day basis. It only exists in the world in which you and I work. And I, frankly, have had enough of it. I frankly think that stirring the pot at the ends of the political spectrum as been terrible for the country and I want no more of it.”
“People in the middle need a voice. We’re underrepresented in the world of talk radio and on cable stations because the bookers they only look for those who they can introduce as a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat. That’s not the bulk of America right now. What about the folks in the middle?”
Smerconish wrote about his decision to register as an Independent: “Collegiality is nonexistent today, and any outreach across an aisle is castigated as weakness by the talking heads who constantly stir a pot of discontent.”
“With news that Michelle Obama would make her first appearance on Fox News, some were upset that she was appearing on Fox and some were upset with me for hosting her. How very sad. I’ve got disagreements with the president on a number of policies but I don’t have a desire to have his plans and policies fail. My goal is to see them change. If the administration proposes something that I agree with, I should say so. And if it’s a policy that needs to be revised then I should be specific as to how, not merely dismiss it because it was presented by someone across the political aisle. Political aisles are fine, but political islands are not.” –Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee