The Big Class: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer now has over 2200 students taking it. Parker’s lectures have provoked many insightful comments in the discussion section. Here are a few of your responses to the class’s discussion questions:
On whether or not we should maintain silence on politics with those who disagree with us:
I think silence is an essential part of true dialogue. Not just the silence of waiting for your turn to talk, but the silence and stillness that come with really listening to others with an open and humble heart. That said, when someone in the dialogue says things that are harmful or degrading to a person or group of people, silence is a participation in that, and it is not being in right relationship with our brothers and sisters who are being demeaned to remain silent. But prayerfully try as I might I too often am not able to discern when I need to deeply listen in silence or to speak up at difficult but needed times.
On maintaining space in conversations for disagreements without betraying our core values:
Respectful conversation can clarify commonality of core values. For example, in the case of abortion the pro-Lifer might agree with the pro-Choice argument that an outright ban simply drives abortion into the back streets, the common value here being law and order or the desirability of minimizing crime.
Respect for others’ beliefs is a value in itself.
On the qualities held by good citizens in our communities:
- Humility – knowing no one person or party or perspective has a corner on the truth.
- Openness to learn – becoming informed, study, reading beyond mainstream media, from all sources – from those who share opinions and others
- Positive attitude about our connection with each other and possibilities that may emerge as we listen to each other and work together on solutions for the greater good.
On using the internet for productive political conversation:
Researchers tell us that effective communication across a wide range of settings (marriage, work, politics, etc.) is built on a foundation in which inquiry outweighs advocacy by a significant margin.The trouble with so many online “conversations” is that they almost exclusively take the form of advocacy. All chutzpah and no humility. As a result, we never really get to know the hopes, dreams, and fears behind these often strident words. More questions and fewer assertions can help create the safe space needed to explore complexity.
Thanks to you all for the high quality discussions that you are having. Please keep the insights coming!