Civil Discourse Over Dinner

Subtitle

If you have people in your life that have vastly different political beliefs or ideologies, how do you keep your relationship honest and also keep the relationship strong and connective?

Summary

Using the power of the internet and our own experiences, we attempted to come up with some ideas for you to take on the task of keeping your family gatherings more about connection. If that is your goal, of course.


Transcript here: http://bit.ly/120Civil


Articles and items we referenced:


How to talk politics at your family holiday meal - CNN, Nov 22, 2017 https://cnn.it/2qjAMjG

How the night before Thanksgiving became the 'biggest drinking day of year' - StarTribune.com, Nov 22, 2017 http://strib.mn/2ACy4vE

Why Families Fight During Holidays - The Atlantic, Dec 23, 2013 http://bit.ly/2EUvVjj

Non Violent Communication http://www.cnvc.org/

Christians and the Pagans https://binged.it/2CVi0HI

Romeo and Juliet in Kigali https://n.pr/2Q7U3A7


BiCurean

Hannah Gadsby: Nannette https://www.netflix.com/title/80233611

As a Black Woman Everything I Love is Problematic, Huffpost, Jan 25, 2018 http://bit.ly/2PujrCN

Not exercising worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease - CNN, Oct 28, 2018 https://cnn.it/2AAV4va

There are Always More Dishes

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I recently attended a concert with some friends up at Red Rocks. The performer, who sings some fairly aggressive and angry songs, spoke out towards the end of his performance. “We live in interesting and difficult times,” he declared. “And I don’t know that I have the answers. I’m a romantic. And I think we need to listen to each other.” It was a somewhat surprising and appreciated sentiment to hear from the stage.

Riding home, I found myself reflecting on the belief that things in America are really extra super bad these days. The twists and turns of the car on the mountain road provided a comforting and peaceful environment to consider this viewpoint. I remember in 2008 when the country rippled with state after state passing the Defense of Marriage Act. When I was young, I watched the LA riots over the beating of Rodney King. I’ve studied the history of AIDS and how it was first called GRID- Gay Related Immune Deficiency. How gay men who were diagnosed were abandoned by even medical professions and left to suffer and die. I watched city after city in our country issue camping bans (even Boulder, bastion of all that is liberal) to shut down the Occupy movement and inhibit our right to assembly and free speech. I’ve read first hand accounts of our wars in Vietnam and Korea. I’ve absorbed histories and stories about the creation and use of nuclear weapons. And the impact of nuclear weapons and accidents on people and environments. I lived near 3 Mile Island as young person. Difficult times and human suffering are not new to our country.

When W. was elected, there were folks in my social circle who were pleased to have something happen to address the complacency of the progressive community. I admit my own frustration at getting people to engage and participate. We had achieved just enough to feel comfortable, without having actually and genuinely made change. Similar to what happened in the Obama years. It is an unfortunate fact that many of us need to be scared or uncomfortable to get motivated. And there is a form of fatigue from doing this work, repeatedly, for years, and still feeling a sense of being where we started. The ancient story of Sisyphus, condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again, highlights the essentially hellish nature of doing a task with no real sense of progress.

This feeling of discouragement is something I faced when I first took on the primary work of my household when my kids were young. No matter how many times I did the dishes, there were always more dishes. And as long as I thought of them as a task to complete, I found myself wrestling Sisyphian feelings of being in a hell of in-completion. After some time, it might honestly have been a few years, I had a moment of experiencing it differently. Instead of trying to complete the overall task of dishes so it could be done, perhaps I would simply do the dishes in front of me and feel a moment of satisfaction in the experience of the empty sink. And not really expect it to remain empty. It worked. Even when my well-meaning youngster dropped his cup into the pristine porcelain sink, it didn’t diminish my feeling of satisfaction. There will always be more dishes. Sometimes even the same dishes.

There will always be more injustice. Sometimes the same injustice. Vulnerable people will be targeted and hurt by the chess moves of the powerful. Policies will have intended and unintended consequences that are harmful and damaging. The poor will be left out and left behind. Those who are different will be overlooked or intentionally silenced. And those of us who are committed to justice will be tireless in our efforts to address these things. In the world. In ourselves. In our families. And some days, we will tire. And some days, we will fail. And some days, we will succeed. And every morning, we will start again. Because there is always more to clean up and the only way we can make a difference, is to keep cleaning.

The Pragmatic Progressive

We talked with gubernatorial candidate Jared Schutz Polis about the challenges and opportunities of serving in public office.

Summary

How does one balance ones ideals against the need to move forward towards a better future? Politicians are people doing a job and yet the modern approach to politics creates 2 dimensional versions of these people.

Transcript here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vQpeJIpu4-B7es6ULSxImOHu1ntVH-Y_jTZh08JtX45UD6mv-eDIwpHPEDBC3_lXuXwAcl7TzuNnwOC/pub

Articles and items we referenced:

Polis for Colorado https://polisforcolorado.com/

Out Boulder outboulder.org

Register to Vote https://www.vote.org/register-to-vote/colorado/

Traffic congestion is making it harder for Denver’s paramedics to get around. Here’s how they are coping. – The Denver Post, Dec 1, 2017
https://www.denverpost.com/2017/12/01/denver-paramedics-traffic-congestion/

F.D.A. Targets Vaping, Alarmed by Teenage Use - The New York Times, Sep 12, 2018
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/health/juul-fda-vaping-ecigarettes.html

On Being Horrified

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I wrote a short Facebook post last week about being horrified at where we are and how we got here as a country. My partner told me I was a fool for posting anything vulnerable on Facebook. Given the result, I can’t say he is incorrect in his assertion. It won’t stop me from trying again, though. In that post, I referenced my father, someone with whom I am politically not in sync and also someone whom I love and respect. It resulted in a family member of mine (not my father) acting out in unexpected anger.

I have been reflecting on the post and the result for the past 48 hours. For me, the BiCurean approach is curiosity, compassion, and grace. Can I stand in the face of my own flaws and not blame others for my fears and insecurities? Can I acknowledge where I am ignorant? blaming? unkind? Will I take responsibility for my actions and words? Can I bear the pain of losing face to stand for the world I want to live in? Some days, yes. Other days, no. When I am in a “not there” day, will I acknowledge I am not living up to my own standards and recommit myself? Yes.

I truly am horrified by the polarization and division in our country. It is astonishing to me that a poorly worded statement on a social media platform could prompt a person I love and care for, a person that I know loves and cares for me, to be so inflamed and angry. It highlights for me how deeply into this story of us versus them we have allowed ourselves to sink.

The same day that my family member (not my father, someone else) was messaging me with anger, a friend of mine from college was reaching out. As a young, faithful Mormon I went to Brigham Young University. This friend is still very committed to the Mormon faith and also committed to our friendship. He and I were talking about how much we appreciate one another. We both believe we can work together, despite this current morass and our different views, to create communities in which we all would feel welcome. More than that even, we both believe it is the better path.

And so I am also emboldened to have hope. I am committed to a world in which our relationships can survive misunderstandings as well as real differences. I am committed to a world in which accountability for our actions and our harm to others is part of how we orient ourselves to where we want to go. I am committed to being the change I want to see in the world, even when I fall short.

Problematic Things

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I've been reading Amanda Lovelace and Ky Robinson in a slightly obsessive way this week. Even more oddly, I found the books at Costco. Wandering by the clothes and snacks, I got pulled in. The blank and empty covers intrigued me amidst the cacophony of politics and mystery novels. Poetry that is almost prose, the words leave enough out to inspire me. Sometimes it is in the negative space I find the most powerful inspiration. 

I'm prepping a reading for an upcoming open mic performance. Some new pieces and some older ones, mixed together. I love to share my writing in written form. It feels safer than reading it, out loud with my actual voice, in front of people. I want to touch someone, even just one someone, to connect across the loneliness and confusion that is life. Reading it in front of people feels like jumping into a pool without being sure I remember how to swim. 

I've heard the magic happens outside of our comfort zone. So, hopefully there will be magic. And I will remember how to swim. 

Why I Canvassed for Jared Polis

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I first met Jared while working for Out Boulder. His husband, Marlon, was on our board when I was first hired. Marlon was a hard working board member with a generous heart. I was raised lower class so my experience of wealthy people was limited and I definitely had pre- judgments. Meeting Marlon and getting to know him was my first indicator that my pre-conceived notions about wealthy people were unfounded and unfair. 

One of the things I learned to appreciate about Jared is his practicality. I believe we share similar values. And where we differ, I respect his willingness to listen. I respect that even when pushed hard, he won't commit to things he doesn't think are achievable or practical. I appreciate that he shows up at things like the Peach Festival in Lafayette, the Women's March, and Pride. 

I'm tired of what I am calling "social purity". This idea that a candidate has to be somehow super human. I was an Obama fan, like many of us progressives, and I don't kid myself that he was somehow a perfect human. I am sure the inevitable expose biography will be full of things we wish weren't true. And he did good work that did good things for a lot of people. He also did things I didn't love and with which I disagreed. 

Polis isn't perfect. We don't see eye-to-eye on all policies. And he is upfront about what he stands for. He is willing to face his failures head on and be accountable. He gives it his all when he cares. He will listen to people who disagree with him, respectfully. And he is human, so I am sure people have experienced him making errors in every category. I am not sure when good leader and no errors became synonymous. 

I will be back out there, knocking on doors, having conversations with people about why I support Jared. 

You've Got to Have Faith

The 2016 election cycle was a call to action for me. In a personal context, it challenged me to really look at the choices I've made over the past several years. And, in the same way that I believe we as an American people need to come together and embrace our whole communities, I have been challenging myself to do that internally. 

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At 25, I left the Mormon church. I had fallen in love with a woman and I realized that my experience of loving her was not sinful. It was, however, impossible for my faith community to accept and support me in that relationship. My close friends were actually quite loving and did their best to be supportive friends while also being true to the tenets of their faith. They showed a combination of compassion and integrity. These qualities originally drew towards them as friends. We drifted apart for many years, our lives being so different, and busy.  We had young children and were starting careers and finishing school. It was more sensible to retreat to yearly letters and, with the rise of the internet, the occasional facebook post

I became an activist and eventually worked as the director of two separate LGBT centers for a total of 12 years. And, until November 2016, I kept a wall in my heart between the faith of my youth and the world in which I live today. However, a facebook post full of rage and blame at conservative religious people, broke me open. I realized that by keeping the details of my path conveniently under-wraps, I was also failing to represent the power of openness and the ability of people to change and grow. 

I learned to be a social justice advocate. I was a Christian because I believed the message of Christian love and acceptance. And I was a Mormon because I strongly believed in the sacredness of personal choice. So the seeds of social justice activism were within my choice of faith communities. I still had to grow beyond my reflex judgments to find a truth that I could embrace. It is my former faith that made me a good director and activist. I learned to put my community first, to do my part without fanfare. I was able to trust that others would do their part and together we would make a difference for many. It is my former faith, my knowledge of my own confused and stumbling path, the reminder of compassion and the awareness that we are all unknowing in some way, that made me a good leader. 

I didn't talk about my prior faith as anything more than a party trick. I didn't highlight my conservative roots. Doing so also means, I left the power of the changes I made in the shadows. My growth into an advocate was a part of my conviction and my faith. I may no longer be Mormon. The life I live today would not be possibly if I hadn't been Mormon in my past. 

The More Star Systems Will Slip Through Your Fingers

The Last Jedi released in theaters this week and of course I attended the modern equivalent of a midnight screening. The question of chaos versus control, which I see as a cornerstone of the Jedi/Sith conflict, is one I face daily. I contemplate it from a philosophical perspective and I suffer it in action from a "my life is a constant struggle against entropy" perspective.  

I recently read an article on traffic anarchy  in Amsterdam. They found removing traffic lights created a more pleasant, safer, driving experience in one intersection. City officials spent about 8 months working with different departments and groups to pave the way for turning off the lights at this problematic intersection. Nervously, they flipped the switch. Interviews and reports show an increase in positive interactions between cyclists and drivers after the switch. 60% of the interviewed cyclists felt the traffic situation had improved with the lights off. 

I'm not a full on fan of anarchy. Inspired partially by self-interest, I expect a totally lawless society might not be one in which I would thrive. And yet, there is something to decreasing the amount of control we seek to exert on one another. The traffic experiment shows how following a process and thinking out of the box can improve what seems to be an impossible situation- without compromising either safety or efficiency. 

I won't spoil the Last Jedi for you, and it does continue to bring up this conversation of chaos versus control. The allure of control is undeniable. Control promises safety, efficiency, a better future, with no senseless loss of life or unnecessary pain, a clean house. And control's ability to deliver is limited to special circumstances. Ultimately I expect we need a Jedi/Sith mash-up to create a better world, rather than bouncing between extremes. 

Surprise Yourself

My friend bought me a Dream Journal for my birthday last year. I eagerly opened it and began the process of building my dream life. The first section walks through questions about what you want in your future.  I get that, if I want to work towards my dreams, I must identify them. I dutifully began to answer the questions in each section, mapping out my life and vision methodically through their process. Until, I got to a question I couldn't answer. I didn't have any idea. And it seemed counter productive to put something down simply to fill in the blank. Not how I want to live my life. Or dream my dreams.

At first, I accepted my inability to give an answer, "It will come to me." I decided, and put the journal down. A few days went by and I was no closer to an answer to the question. I began to feel stressed. How could I move forward without knowing where I wanted to go? I put the journal down again. A few days later, I had a therapy session scheduled. And I brought the journal. I work with an amazing person, Lisa Apel, who has guided me through the death of my ex-husband & moving my dementia afflicted mother across the country. Surely she could give me insight into the answer.

I showed her the journal and shared my challenge. I had begun to feel a sense of urgency around it. I wanted to start the work process. Still stuck in the planning portion of the journal was holding me back. As I explained the stumbling block and my lack of knowing the answer to one of the dream questions, she listened patiently. When I finished, she said, "Well you don't have to have every question answered to start moving forward in one area." 

What? *blink* I looked blankly at her as years of "be prepared" collided with her simple statement. "You mean, it's my life and my dreams. I can do what I know now. I don't have to know everything I will ever want to do or be in this moment to be able to start on my path?" Saying it out loud highlighted how ridiculous it was. I began to smile and I chuckled with the release of pressure and tension I had created around the act of creating my dreams. She smiled and nodded, "Yes. It is your life."