Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Coffee and conversation go a long way

I sat across the table the other day from a friend with whom it turns out I disagree regarding the solutions to national and world problems. We each had a cup of good coffee in our hands, and that was the beginning of an agreement.

I have found that our disagreements are over the solutions to the challenges we face, not in our core values. The tea partier and the socialist agree that it is bad for people to go hungry, that it is bad for people to do harm to others or to themselves, that it is bad to lie and cheat and steal and murder.

One side doesn’t trust big government. One side doesn’t trust big corporations. Me, I think they’re both right: I just don’t trust “big” anything.

Big loses sight of the individual. Big attempts to find solutions that are one-size-fits-all and misses our wonderful differences. Big pushes masses of snow aside and rarely notices that each snowflake is completely different from every other snowflake.

The answers to our troubles are local, specific and individual. But most of all they involve recognizing that we share the same values of common decency.

When you buy into the myths that you believe about tea partiers or socialists or Republicans or Democrats, you blind yourself to the reality that we’re all in this together. When I look past my prejudices, I find people who share the same ideals that I have, even within the ranks of big government and big corporations. The important thing is to get to know the individuals rather than make assumptions about them based on the myths.

It saddens me that a group of local folks find it necessary to establish something called The Civility Project. It ought to be common sense that we find solutions by working together in harmony rather than dismissing each other on the basis of political philosophy or religion or skin color or some other dividing factor. It ought to be common sense that understanding and accepting our differences is a key to finding common ground.

But they’re right: We have become so accustomed to being rude and angry with one another – believing that those who view life differently are not just wrong, but evil – making sport of belittling each other like playground bullies – that a refresher course in getting along can be valuable.

For what it’s worth, the next offering of this basic training in civility is scheduled 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 17 in the Washington Island School Commons. If that time and place don’t work, you can learn more by visiting

 But before then, take time to listen past the talking points and the sound bites, take time to consider what it is that the other person believes, what basic problem the other person wants to solve. You may notice that you share the same objectives even if you disagree about the solution.

I’m fairly confident you’ll find you have more in common than appreciation for a good cup of coffee.

Cross-posted to Door County Advocate

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