Guns: An American Conversation

The subject of guns in America lends itself to strong emotion and great strife, especially in the face of continued mass shootings. We all wish we could make it stop, but we can’t seem to agree on where to focus. The guns themselves? The troubled souls who carry out these acts of violence? The inconsistent regulation of existing laws? The poor infrastructure for recognizing this danger?

How Better Conversations Change Communities

Like all the generations who came before us, we face a range of challenges that call for careful consideration, constructive debate, and collaborative problem-solving. But unlike any time in recent history, we are sharply and painfully divided. And the problem isn't simply that two large constellations of ideological thought reflexively oppose one another at every turn: it's that, underlying this opposition, we have forgotten how to talk about our conflicts constructively.

So: we need to talk.

What Comes Next?

Over the last couple of weeks, all my liberal friends are asking each other the same question: “are you going to March?” Washington, New York, Boston, whatever the location, there hardly seems to be a justifiable excuse for a woman who cares about reproductive rights not to be marching. Being a woman suddenly demands public demonstration. We’re getting swept into a narrative of us and them once again - you’re either “with us” or “against us.” There is a yawning gap between the two, into which many people fall.

How Does Power Affect our Conversations?

In a recent conversation with activists on a college campus, student leaders informed our practitioners that student protesters showed little interest in dialogue because they assumed that “dialogue” was an attempt to placate them by the administration. The power of the administration carried both weight and assumptions. In another of our dialogues, a participant assumed he would have to begin speaking with an apology for his privilege before even participating in the conversation.

Talking to Your Kids This Election

Recently, while we scootered to get ice cream, my eight-year-old daughter asked me if we would move to Canada if a certain candidate won the election. Apparently two of her friends’ families are already planning their escape route. After assuring her that our family would not be going anyway no matter who wins the election, we had a long conversation about the nuances of checks and balances. That might seems strange to do with an eight-year old, but the mysteries of how the world works endlessly fascinate her.

Muster Stations

A few years ago, my father took our whole family on a cruise of the fjords of Norway. None of us had been on a cruise before, and my father was the only one who had ever been on the open sea at all - when he traveled the US for the first time as a young man in the 1950's. Everything about the trip was new to me: being in London, traveling on an enormous cruise ship, encountering the people and culture of Norway. I could never have imagined the grandeur of the scenery, the air, the beauty that seemed infinite.

Turning To Each Other

The violence, grief and acrimony of the last week has been brutal. In the midst of such public anger and heated rhetoric, I was reminded of another piece of sad news: the death of Holocaust survivor and man of brilliance Elie Wiesel. Of a lifetime of wisdom, no words of his have felt more urgent than these; I have clung to them for both courage and challenge:

"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel

Shining a Light Beyond Polarization

We’ve all seen the headlines. Gridlock. Paralysis. Incivility. All the result of widening political polarization in the United States government, and also among its people. Like other aspects of identity, political ideology can be a dividing factor in our national conversation. We refuse to engage with the “other side” and reflect critically on our own views.

No, We Won't Calm Down: Emotion and Reason in Dialogue?

A recent cartoon on digital platform Everyday Feminism stimulated a lot of questions among Public Conversations Project staff. Entitled “No, We Won’t Calm Down-Tone Policing is Just Another Way to Protect Privilege,” it raised important issues about power, privilege, the apparent contrast between reason and emotion, and the roles of advocacy and dialogue.