SANTA MONICA, Calif. – This is the second National Week of Conversation, and its organizers hope it becomes an annual event that fosters reconciliation and a stronger sense of common purpose among Americans.
Discussion events begin today throughout the country – some in person, and others online. They’re meant to get people talking – but more important, really listening – to views about major issues, like racial injustice and gun rights, where people too often talk past each other.
Jaclyn Inglis, partnerships director at the National Conversation Project, says the tendency for each side to ignore or even disdain the other has led to poor solutions and political standoffs in the past.
“And so, we think a way to really heal this is to encourage people to come together,” says Inglis, “to reconnect through conversations with people with diverse perspectives, where we come together to listen first to one another, to truly understand where each other is coming from.”
On Saturday in Santa Monica, a group known as “Better Angels” is hosting what it calls a “Red/Blue Workshop on Bridging the Political Divide.” Another is set for the following Saturday, Apr. 13, in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Inglis says society would be better off if more people would step outside their “one-sided echo chambers” amplified on cable news and social media, and reach out to people around them.
“Just go out and start conversations with friends and family, and neighbors about some of these issues,” says Inglis. “We want people to join in these conversations already happening, but also, this is about really, even in their tight-knit community, to be able to engage in these conversations.”
She says healthy debate often produces the best ideas for resolving problems, but people have to listen to each other. The “partisan gap” has more than doubled in the last 20 years – from 15 percentage points to 36 – according to The Pew Research Center.