It was too much to expect David Brooks to hand us a solution to the terrible polarization in our community and country. But the New York Times columnist – a longtime regular visitor to Colorado – offered inspiration and shared his hopes for the future during his Zoom talks this week for the Community Foundation of Southwest Colorado.
More than 300 people attended the one-hour talk on Monday. The foundation also hosted a discussion with Brooks for its VIP members Wednesday.
Brooks has been a regular commentator on PBS and NPR, written numerous books and interviewed every president of the past three decades. He is a moderate conservative voice who wields a lot of influence.
Surely if anyone has some worthwhile ideas about healing our country, it would be Brooks.
But while he offered some hopeful ideas, Brooks said nothing truly surprising in his talks. Probably every minister in town has delivered a sermon quite similar to his suggestions to “see each other more deeply,” to foster a shift in values that “put relationships first,” to create “morally formative organizations” and “institutions where we can think together,” to “find the disagreement under the disagreement.”
All that sounds really good. But how are we going to get people of differing political persuasions in the same room with one another so we can see each other more deeply and create those relationships? (Right now it’s hard to get into a room with anyone else in it – given COVID-19 restrictions – but someday soon that may be over.)
We have come to exist in our own silos, as Brooks pointed out. Here, our “silos” are defined by political party; whether we live in town or in the country; are native to the area or “outsiders” who have moved here; are rich or poor or somewhere in the middle. Almost anything about us can become a point of derision and division.
When we spend our time only with those who think as look and act as we do, we are not challenged. We may be peaceful and calm, maybe even a bit smug and self-satisfied about our positions. To risk relating to those who are different means we must get out of our silos, our comfort zones, and intentionally seek out those with whom we may disagree. Where’s the fun in that?
There sometimes isn’t much “fun,” but the rewards of connecting with someone vastly different from us in background and beliefs can be profound, as Brooks has found in his interviews around the country. We find out fairly quickly what we can’t talk about together easily and where we can find common interests. If we can spend time focusing on those common interests, we can come to feel safe enough with a person of a different persuasion that we can talk with them about hot-button topics. We can creep a little closer to the center point between us. We can hear ourselves say to a friend who is incredulous about our new acquaintance, “Oh, he’s not so bad. He raises the most beautiful roses and has this fabulous dog, Marty, and he volunteers with disabled kids. We talk about cooking a lot.”
David Brooks didn’t hand us a magic solution, but he made us think, perhaps in a different way, about the way we want our world to be.
So here’s a challenge: Join us in a Zoom call at noon on Friday, Feb. 26, and invite someone quite different from you to attend. Send an email to [email protected] and we’ll send you the Zoom link.
Let’s talk about Healing the Rift – one person at a time.