Searching For Common Ground
We are suffering a slow paralysis by polarization. Our society has split into parallel realities, living side by side in different worlds, unwilling to converge.
By rediscovering that the common interests of a nation's people always outnumber and outweigh the uncommon ones, we can begin to reverse the worsening paralysis. We do know our polarizing points such as the doctrine of pre-emptive war, the rights of the unborn, and the degree of separation desired between Church and State. Yet we must also recognize and celebrate our common interests: passion for our country, generosity for helping others, concern for the future of our children, and desire for peace in the world.
In some ways, our bounty is also our curse. In this land of plenty, we are not forced to work together out of necessity or thrift. Our ignorance of each other misleads us into assigning easy categorizations: liberal or conservative, radical or warmonger. We paint those who disagree with us into absurdly extreme corners in our mind and never allow them to come out and be heard. We are thus increasingly paying lip service to the ideals of true democracy.
Democracy invites and tolerates the clash of opinions, and understands its obligation to search for common ground. Indeed, true democracy knows its very survival depends upon that. A democracy recognizes that there are intelligent people supporting each side of every issue. There exists no issue facing us truly as simple as a choice between two absolutes: good versus evil, right versus wrong, for us or against us.
Finding common ground requires, first and foremost, releasing our anger; it does us no good. The clenched fist is the extension of the closed mind. Common ground is reached only through a willingness to listen with an open mind. By listening, we permit the possibility of being listened to. Discussions must be engaged with positive discourse, and an intention to reveal perspectives not previously seen. Perspectives must be offered in the manner that a teacher explains a new concept, not as a soldier defends a barricade. Facing an uncertain future, we must not confuse security with peace. Authentic peace is attainable only by searching for common ground and discovering our common interests. The time available is short; let's begin our journey today! Ê Ê
-- Dr. Todd Huffman, Pediatrician, Eugene, Oregon.
Racial Integration in The United States
The Color Lines Conference, featuring cutting-edge new thinking and research on race issues is being held on Labor Day Weekend at Harvard University in Massachusetts. It is being organized by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu) with sponsorship from many organizations. As the nation observes the 50th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Project will lead a vital national debate about the past, present and future of racial integration in the United States: What are the trends? What future do we want, and how do we shape it? What public policies and private practices are most promising? The need for fresh data and insight is particularly pressing in light of the growing complexity of our nation's racial makeup; evidence of persisting, even increasing, racial inequalities and the simultaneous steady erosion of civil rights protections and guarantees in courts and legislatures.
The conference will explore the implications of these racial realities and multicultural challenges. Researchers, civic leaders, educators, business people, union activists, attorneys and religious leaders in attendance will help chart a course for the future.
The conference aims for racial and ethnic justice and features more than 50 panels and sessions on themes like Black-Brown Relations, Future of Race in the Law, How to Build a Racial Justice Movement, Geography of Latino Settlement, Racial Identity, Religion and Race in the country, Labor Movement into the 21st Century, Access to Health Care and Health Care Quality, Political Enfranchisement along the Color Line, and Mobilizing Racial Minorities.
The National Association for Multicultural Education, NAME, will hold its 13th annual conference in Seattle, Washington, on Nov. 5-9, 2003, with a focus on Student Achievement in Multi-cultural Societies. The international conference will feature nationally known speakers, workshops, panels, cultural performances, multicultural exhibits and an awards ceremony. High school and college students are especially encouraged to attend the Student Diversity Leadership Day set for Friday, Nov. 7th. For registration forms, visit NAME at www.nameorg.org, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.