Our ancestors were willing to spill their blood for their audacious belief in self-governance, so great was their determination that when citizens can learn the facts, talk to each other and think for themselves, they come up with some pretty good ideas and can be their own bosses. What happens to The Big Idea, though, if citizens aren’t learning facts but distortions, if they aren’t thinking for themselves so much as they’re group “thinking” and, worst of all, if they aren’t talking to each other but are yelling, hitting and stomping on toes? What kind of bosses do they make then?
Where’s grandma and her mouth-washing soap when you need her?
I have always believed that a lot of the troubles in the world would disappear
if we were talking to each other instead of about each other.
What passes for political “dialog” these days wouldn’t be tolerated between 5-year-olds at recess. We’ve turned “talking” over to professional polarizers on television who make seven digit careers surfing this wave of hostility. They warp what were once perfectly useful ideas, when understood in moderation, into black and white caricatures of ideas, so oversimplified they become effectively useless in solving real problems. These entrepreneurial yellers build for us such a fundamental misunderstanding of (and contempt for) people who think differently than we do, we’ve stopped bothering to listen to each other.
Too few politicians do more than build and exploit our divisions to win, nor do many place partisanship aside once elected to actually lead. We’re spoon-fed slick (and expensive) commercials that sell us snake oil rather than provide the facts so basic to building the informed citizenry envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
As this 24/7 televised political circus replaces face-to-face discussion, our anger is building.
Remember compromise? Our children don’t.
Our lives begin to end when we stop talking about things that matter.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
We seem to be raising a generation who’ve only heard half an argument in a country that requires citizens to understand a whole one. How do you think they’re going to do when it’s their turn to take care of The Big Idea ?
We’ve forgotten that talking despite disagreement is what we’ve always done best. It’s not hard to find places on this earth that don’t agree to disagree and few of us move there without hazardous duty pay. It’s in places like these that we find real enemies to The Big Idea (tragically, we’ve heard from them lately), enemies we surely won’t defeat if we only become more like them.
Maybe we have grown so accustomed to this masterpiece of a nation we built on compromise that we have begun to see all that is so profound around us as simply ordinary.
Enter the Village Square.
Culturally, right now, we have a system in which we don’t have a broad conversation among people. . . We don’t agree with each other – and one of the biggest challenges, I think, we face as a nation is how do we create those spaces?
Senator Barack Obama
It’s high time for an American archeological dig, where we begin to unearth civil discourse in the Village Square.
Dinners will be quarterly, taking on topics of interest, whether of local, state or national concern. Controversy is no match for us, so bring it on. Wedge issues? We scoff at the challenge. Religion and politics? Child’s play. Intractable hostility? Yawn. Coke or Pepsi? Admittedly tougher.
Our intention in taking on this “when pigs fly” sort of challenge is for people with differing views to find a way to walk toward each other. And where we fail in the mission to find our similarities, in the proud tradition of this country we love, we will just agree to disagree. If we disagree and then keep right on chattering, then The Big Idea is alive and well.
Oh, and dinner will be served. Generally good food and drink improve the spirit of compromise, and we are nothing if not stunningly self-sacrificing in our commitment to progress.
You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Try as we might to selectively “fact” find in order to support our most earnestly held ideologies, sooner or later the chickens of factual distortion come home to roost. Decisions made using bad facts tend to yield bad results. Sure, it’s fun to debate using only the facts that support our pre-existing conclusion, but unless we labor to understand facts that weigh against our conclusion as well, we’re going to make mistakes, maybe BIG ones.
Here at the Village Square, we’re running with the whacky concept of understanding the facts before we draw conclusions.
Just ask those ragtag colonists about knowing when you’re licked.
Real courage is knowing you’re licked before you begin and you begin anyway. And you see it through.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
True, we’re going to have to be an obstinately persistent bunch, but remember, we come from people who were way too big for their britches.
So, hear ye, hear ye. Citizens of our American Village who wish to take the bold, brave step of celebrating what unites us, in a world that is dead set on fighting about what divides us, you are hereby invited to the Village Square.
Maybe, just maybe, if we roll up our sleeves and get to talking, when politicians inevitably put their finger in the air, they might notice that the wind has shifted a bit. Blow nice and hard though, we’re going to have to hold up a pig or two.