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How To Bridge Political Divides

Rebecca–Cross Cultural Creatures

One of our favorite resources, Berkeley’s Greater Good, asks whether it is indeed true that politics have the US deeply divided right now.  Many people, and perhaps you dear reader, might emphatically say, “Yes, like never before!”  On the other hand, others of you might say this isn’t the first time politics have been bitter and divisive in this country.  Nevertheless, most of us could safely say politics right now are pretty loaded.

Politics are so contentious not just because the stakes are high, but because many of us have beliefs that oppose not only some generic ‘others’ out there–people in Red States or Blues States, liberal/conservative, etc.–they can also be in direct contradiction to peers, colleagues, friends, and even family members and spouses.  In other words, it’s not just close to home, it’s in our home.

We’ve gone in to this territory before here at CWW–the question of how we find common ground with people with whom we disagree.  This is especially challenging when the disagreements are about politics.  Even though many people dismiss ‘politics’ as absurd nonsense, as if it were just the noisy jabberings of opinionated blowhards, politics are at their simplest a reflection of our core values.  What could be more important?!

Those values are where we find the bridge–the access point to beginning to see and understand where someone else is coming from.  A classic example is basic rights.  Conservatives tend to value the right to bear arms and liberals tend to value the right of free speech.  Both originate from the exact same impulse–to be able to protect oneself from and speak out against tyranny.

The bottom line in bridging differences is not just that we need to find ways to be more open and receptive to others, we also need instruction on how to actually put that into action.   The Greater Good,  in their article of what they call “moral reframing” folks outline an ABC strategy–Affirm, Bridge, and Connect. Affirming means allowing others to voice their beliefs before we try to convince them of ours.  Bridging means adding your beliefs as additional possibilities (“yes, and there’s also this” versus “but you’re not taking that into consideration”). Finally, they suggest connecting through storytelling and personal experience.

Not surprisingly, the way we at CWW affirm, bridge, and connect is through artmaking.  We also use helpful handouts, such as this one on Values, to give people the language and tools to identify their beliefs.  Here are just a few of the values that we’ve noticed seem to be at the root of political beliefs: freedom, safety, responsibility for others, self-reliance, growth and expansion, restraint and preservation, accountability, having a voice, privacy, and transparency.  Look over the list we’ve provided and see which of them interplay with your political beliefs.

Blessings and love to you all, Rebecca and Gioia 

Art Directive
Make a collage of images that represent your political beliefs and values.  Think about someone with whom you disagree politically.  Make a collage of the things you think they believe are most important.  How are they the same?  How do they differ?  If you know the person well enough, ask him/her to do his/her own collage and compare. Feel free to share them on our Facebook page.