I just re-read Mary Lynch’s passionate and thoughtful post about teaching to students traumatized by the election, along with comments in response. I share many of the reactions described there.
In the aftermath of the election, I wrote several posts on the Indisputably blog that complement these ideas. These posts are part of a general theme emphasizing the importance of seeing the world through others’ eyes. This is an important practical orientation for lawyers and other dispute resolution professionals in their work. I think it is also valuable for dealing with conflicts in our daily lives as well as in the political realm.
In a post entitled, How Can We Build Common Ground Between Bubbles?, I suggested that probably most of us live in bubbles as society has become more polarized and less emotionally safe. I described how many people, on all sides of the political lines, feel painfully disrespected by the others.
I suggested that it may help to start by using a neutral, mediator’s mindset to sympathetically understand how the world looks from others’ “bubbles” without evaluating the merits of the views. A fundamental part of the conflict reflected in the election seems to be about identity – who is worth respect and help and who is not. Recognizing the reality of people’s experiences and empathizing with the pain felt by people on all sides is really hard especially because some people feel that acknowledging others’ problems is an implicit devaluation of their own problems.
Starting by understanding different perspectives does not require that people believe that there is equal merit on both sides. I certainly don’t believe that.
In a later post, I suggested that the approach and tone of then-Senator Obama’s 2008 More Perfect Union speech provides a good model for trying to build common ground. It described perspectives of blacks and whites in the US, and judged them sympathetically without suggesting that one was better than the other.
After serious effort to understand others, we should judge as Senator Obama did. All ideas are not equally valid or beneficial (or harmful). So being non-judgmental isn’t a good solution. People should not agree just for the sake of agreeing. Rather, I think that people should try to constructively engage in conflict, though that’s easier said than done.
I also posted two messages from the National Coalition on Deliberation and Dialogue. One provides general suggestions and resources for dealing with the aftermath of the election. The other provides tips for better Thanksgiving conversations. These ideas may be helpful for family gatherings during the upcoming winter holidays.
Of course, these posts provide more detail about all of this. They stimulated a number of comments, including some controversy about how to best manage holiday conversations.
I wish I felt confident about a solution to recommend for constructively dealing with the highly polarizing conflict reflected in this election. I don’t. I hope that the ideas in my posts may be helpful in figuring this out.
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