I spent my last Saturday of February at a convention about public work and how to make society better. I came to this event without any expectations, but some suspicions. Would it be specifically geared towards a certain political ideology, such as progressive activism?
The convention was about the topic of what it means to strengthen democracy and the value of it. The standpoints of nationalism, internationalism, and patriotism were presented, beautifully and thoroughly. They stated the issues of the current system: politics, environment, identity, and technology. We discovered the reasons why America is in such divisive and fragmented time. We discussed “Otherness”, sustainability, and freedom. Americans as radical; what is the identity of America? Is it a melting pot or a tossed salad?
Some words of American historian Harvey Kaye:
The Democrat pushes their tradition out from JFK’s original vision, and the Republican is no longer the party of Lincoln anymore. That is history that we need to reclaim American politics, rebuild the American dream, and take back our freedom and democracy.
I like going to events that I have no idea about because I learn a lot from them. They open my eyes and foster my critical thinking skills even if I don’t necessarily agree with everything the speakers say. The idea of listening and learning from others pushes me out of my comfort zone, makes me think of things I am not comfortable with, and connect us as human beings.
I appreciate the discussion about identity and political systems very much. I was surprised to be asked to write down the groups that I belong, I just never thought of it. In today’s world, we are told to stand out, find our own thing, being different. We rarely realize that the start of a conversation is not how crazy your life is, but it should be from what we have in common. I have to admit that I commit this error as well. We need to find a common ground to be able to have a conversation.
A dialogue requires an open mind and open heart. It is not about protecting your idea and influencing the other, but listening and being willing to change if you happen to agree with the other. We need to recognize and put aside, not ignore, our biases, judgment, titles, and labels to have meaningful humanly encounters.
Well, I can be apprehensive about conducting a genuine conversation because of rejection and potential deterioration of relationships, even though I crave for those conversations to come around. I realized that if I keep waiting, it might never come. We need to take the initiative to open up those hard talks to deepen the understanding of other human beings. You have to be strong to take on this role; in another words:
Genuine dialogues are not for the faint of heart.
I am still practicing being strong and brave, and I will break out of my hesitation and take on more understanding and communication with others. At the end of the day, we are reminded that we can change the world through our work and our words. I liken it to the paraphrasing of the work of the opening speaker, Dr. Micheline Ishay:
In order to fortify our democracy and make it better, we need five types of freedom: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Sexual Discrimination.