As American politics fractures, many citizens wonder if they can ever again engage family, neighbors or colleagues in civil discussions on affairs of the day.  For those timid to bridge key topics, we now have at least three examples of, if not how, why it’s important to reach out and talk to those who may have voted differently than ourselves.

Example One: Brene´Brown. Dr. Brown is a Ph.D. qualitative researcher based inbraving the wilderness 2 Houston, TX, who studies courage, authenticity and shame  She’s been featured on Oprah events and has one of the most watched TED talks of all time from 2011on the topic of vulnerability. Her most recent book, Braving the Wilderness, she directly addresses what it takes to reestablish community as politics, fractured media, tribalism, and partisan politics serve more to divide than unite us. She discusses the 7 critical elements of trust — symbolized by the acronym BRAVING — and posits that our self-sorting has led to increasing loneliness in a time when we all would be better served by finding common community. What you learn by reading Brown is the importance of showing up at community events whether they be to build Habitats for Humanity, attend funerals, share musical experiences, or protest.

Example Two: Daryl Davis. Davis is an African-American R&B Blues musician now also known for inspiring Ku Klux Klansmen to voluntarily give up their affiliation and robes. He does it through conversation and active engagement. Read about the first robe he collected in this NPR interview.  Just about the time Brene´Brown was taking TED by storm above, Davis published the book Klan-destine Relationships.  A recent search could not uncover a paperback copy for less than $186 with hardcover editions selling for more than $1,000. It’s definitely time for an audio version, although you can also catch an interview with Davis on the October 20 edition of Real Time with Bill Maher. What you learn from Davis is that people hold positions that have frequently been unchallenged, never giving them a reason to change. Change happens when alternative points of view are at least presented for consideration.

Related Post: Who Has Moral Authority?

Example Three: Derek Black, actually Matthew Stevenson.  Derek Black was born into the White Supremacist movement into a family with David Duke as his godfather. His father, Don Black, created Stormfront, a highly followed supremacist web site, and by age 10, Derek had himself created the kid’s corresponding site.  After going to college and being exposed to others, particularly a Peruvian immigrant who was also an Orthodox Jew named Matthew Stevenson.  Stevenson started inviting Black to his Friday night Shabbat dinners.  Conversations started, facts that mattered were discussed, and views softened. The full story is published in an October 2015 piece in The Washington Post.  What you learn from Black and Stevenson is that education can never be undervalued, education can be censored, and friendship can bridge the gap.

Potential Hinge Actions You Can Take:

  • Invite your own counter view person to dinner. It can be a neighbor from an opposing party, or just an uncle who has crazy views
  • Grab a copy of Braving the Wilderness.  Unlike the Davis book, it can be easily purchased at any major outlet for well under $20.
  • Watch any Brene Brown Ted Talk. They’re free and inspirational.
  • Listen to The Daily interview with Derek Black. It’s free and chilling. Or, click on th Wahington Post link above.
  • Read the May 2015 article in The Atlantic on The Audacity Talking About Race /with The Ku Klux Klan on Daryl Davis. It’s free even if his book is not.