Questions about your work in red-blue dialogue

Here’s a thoughtful message and some great questions from Jacob Hess, one of our two featured speakers on next Wednesday’s confab call on red-blue dialogue. See the full description of the confab, and register here if you’d like to join us. We’re excited that 110 people have already signed up!

JacobHessRush Limbaugh taught me, in my teenage years, that liberals were trying to destroy America. And I believed him.

They were the enemy. And I was a combatant in a desperate culture war against them for the soul of America…

Like many of my conservative community, I felt I had little reason to believe otherwise….

Then I made a decision to actually spend time with ‘liberals’ – going to school with them, breaking bread with them and talking deeply with them.

And in ten years of looking, what I found was astounding: not once did I encounter a liberal out to destroy America. What were they doing instead? Trying to figure out ways to make the world a better place – something strangely familiar to what I believed as a religious, building-the-kingdom kid from Utah.

I began co-facilitating liberal-conservative dialogue courses at the University of Illinois. I began interviewing liberal and conservative citizens to understand subtle distinctions in contrasting narratives. I fell in love with the Public Conversations Project, Living Room Conversations and an adorable liberal named Phil.

And with each step forward, some things kept growing inside me: Anger – anger that I had been lied to – convinced for so much of my life that “those liberals” were something they were not. Sorrow – sadness that the majority of my friends, family and conservative community still lived with boiling political resentments and fear. And delight – a thrill that I had found another way – a way of conversing that had dissipated these fears and resentments entirely – filling me, instead, with new insights, discoveries and the sweetness that comes from seeing loveable people as they really are.

I am not an anomaly. When I share my experience with conservative friends and family, I almost universally see hunger in them for similar experiences – this, alongside bone-deep weariness of all the animosity, all the hostility and all the relentless political sound bytes about “those idiots on the other side.”

I am reaching out to my NCDD colleagues today because I often feel isolated and a bit lonely in my work. I’m eager to connect more formally and more regularly with others who also sense the enormous possibility of transpartisan and liberal-conservative work – and who share my ache to make it more popular than Rush Limbaugh.

In advance of a confab call Phil and I are doing next Wednesday, there are 3 questions we would love to ask anyone in NCDD – especially those with a particular interest in the socio-political divide. I’ll post them below in the comments, and I hope you will respond.

If there is anything else you’d like to raise or share – please do. We’re all ears – and will share all ideas that come up in our written report to the group.

Thank you for your attention, NCDD. It means a lot…You have my promise as a qualitative researcher: We will report back key themes of everything you share!

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