For as vocal as I can be, I avoid political discussions like the plague. This is especially true when large numbers of relatives and friends huddle in tight quarters where wine and food are plentiful. Inevitably, people I love will have drastically different opinions than my own.
Yet never before have I seen such anger among my countrymen and women. And that disgust with the status quo gives us a perfect binding interest—a shared experience—that is completely unrelated to where we find ourselves on the political spectrum.
So go for it, I say. Talk politics, starting today.
Five Reasons to Talk Politics
Here are five things that I believe each of us can do now to impact what’s happening in the larger world. And what better time than while we give thanks over a shared meal with our loved ones?
- Acknowledge that politics as usual isn’t working. Here we have something to learn from the startup world: test, fail and iterate. Ask friends and family what they think is the most important action that a single citizen can take to keep elected leaders in touch with our reality.
- Challenge the validity of the Electoral College. If you believe the president should serve by popular vote, join the nearly 5 million people who’ve signed an online petition. Regardless of how you voted two weeks ago, the Electoral College has evolved over our history and it’s due for a tune up.
- Host a salon discussion to learn about race and poverty. Small groups are a place where we can feel safe asking questions. Let’s face it, there is so much we don’t know — we only know our own experience. Just figuring out the right words to use can feel intimidating or scary. At a time when “us vs. them” has never felt so strong, we can each do something to connect with others in a way that is uniquely human.
- Get to know a nearby community that doesn’t look like yours. For 20 years I have lived in Mill Valley (and its surrounding, 80%-white Marin County). Why didn’t I bring my kids to local parks in Marin City or the Canal (Latino district of San Rafael) when they were young? Why did we tutor just a few times with the Boys and Girls Club at MLK/Bayside K-8 school near public housing? My children and I take for granted so many things that families lack when they live in poverty. A colleague told this story of a typical teen in Marin City at a nonprofit pitch night to raise awareness and funding for some amazing youth programs.
- Read and listen to others’ stories. This week I heard a great interview with mixed-race host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah, who spoke of using language as a connector among those who misjudged his ethnicity. Before I began working in an historically black community a few miles from my home, I was completely ignorant about structural racism. My colleagues, and books like these, are helping me along my journey to understand the reality of what it means to be Black in America, and to do what I can to acknowledge and break down barriers:
Waking Up White, by Debby Irving
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
White Like Me, film and book by Tim Wise
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, by Joy Angela Degruy
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
13th, documentary film by Ava DuVernay
For many reasons, I had hoped that our next president would be a woman. None the less, I have never felt more appreciative of the rich cultures of this tapestry called the United States. I also feel a powerful desire to start right where I am in creating change.
Share Your Journey
What actions will you take to create connection and build community? We’re on this journey together.