By Jack Hellie
November 8, 2016 sent many Americans reeling after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conceded to businessman Donald Trump in the race for president. Two months later and days before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President, many Americans are still in disbelief, promising to #Resist. In a time of political tension, where can people look for hope?
Politics is inherently emotional, and discussions around it, no matter the intention or participants, often get heated and have a tendency to end abruptly when an impasse is reached or emotions get too high.
It might sound crazy, but perhaps hope for the future of politics can be found in talking about politics. The thing America needs the most could be the thing Americans like the least.
This morning Julie Winokur discussed her documentary film Bring it to the Table. Winokur shared her experience meeting with folks from around the country and asking them to talk politics with her. Now, the primary focus of her work was on raising the level of civil discourse and breaking down partisan barriers in the process. Doing such is a noble endeavor, and likely an academic one.
Discourse itself means to speak or write authoritatively. Civil discourse sounds like it belongs in an ivory tower, saved for those who can speak about politics with authority. Perhaps before raising the level of civil discourse, most Americans need to simply have conversations with those who come from different places, both ideologically and geographically.
The idea of finding hope for the future in speaking with those we disagree does sound crazy. And maybe that is because Americans are just not good at talking about politics, because we don’t do it. Practice does not make perfect, but it makes better.
The more we talk about politics with our friends, family or neighbors, the more comfortable we may become with the existence of different ideas. These conversations do not need to be with the hope of converting others to one’s own ideology, but with the hope of simply understanding the ideology of others.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” In the mountain of despair that is political discourse today, let us talk, and we will find that stone of hope.