As the holiday season approaches, many people are bracing themselves for the inevitable political discussions that may arise during family gatherings. In a time of increasing polarization and partisan conflict, the dread of these conversations often sets in. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the gap between Democrats and Republicans has sharply widened in the last decade, leading to more negative views of the opposing party than ever before. In light of this divisive climate, one Fox Cities nonprofit believes it has found an antidote to political polarization.
Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities has devised a unique approach to bridging political conversations: intimate community conversations. In December, they will be hosting a series of sessions where residents with different ideologies can sit face-to-face and engage in meaningful dialogue. The goal is not to change minds, but rather to foster understanding and empathy.
Margaret Alexander, one of the organizers, recognizes the increasing division in the last decade, with people severing friendships over differing political views. Studies have shown that nearly 20% of Americans are not friends with those who hold opposing political perspectives. The Pew Research Center has also documented the rise of partisan hostility over the past two decades, with the majority of Republicans and Democrats holding a “very unfavorable” view of people from the other party.
These community conversations aim to break down barriers and allow participants to understand why others hold certain viewpoints. By creating a space for genuine dialogue and emotional connection, Celebrate Diversity hopes to mitigate anger and tension surrounding political discussions. Jody Harrell, another organizer, emphasizes that the focus is not on convincing or changing opinions but on truly listening and grasping where others are coming from.
The event encourages participants to address hurtful or offensive comments rather than shutting down the conversation. This enables both sides to explain their thoughts and emotions, paving the way for a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives. Ultimately, the goal is to build community instead of fostering factions.
Although the concept is still relatively new, this will be the third time Celebrate Diversity is conducting the community conversation series. Organizers have witnessed progress in previous series, with participants learning how to approach political conversations and gaining a greater understanding of opposing viewpoints. Feedback from previous participants emphasizes the valuable learning and growth experiences these conversations provide.
If you’re interested in taking part in the Bridging the Political/Ideological Divide conversation series, sign up by November 25th. Prepare to embark on a journey of empathy, understanding, and community building.