Viewpoint:There’s value in dialogue over monologueI applaud Kelly DeBrine's seeking "open, honest chat on taxes." I hope her event on July 31 is the first of many such meetings.
By: Dick Bernard, Woodbury Bulletin
I applaud Kelly DeBrine's seeking "open, honest chat on taxes." I hope her event on July 31 is the first of many such meetings.
But she will need a lot of patience and persistence.
There are many words in the front page article and accompanying editor’s commentary.
I was looking to find application of a single specific concept.
I saw: "talk"; "chat"; "conversation"; "lawn signs"; "[decision] without allowing the public to weigh in"; "debates"; "saying the (tax) word out loud"; "rhetoric"; "discussion"; "arguments"; "exploration"; "civility…with grace."
Some words I thought I'd see were missing, such as false or misleading media ads anonymously funded; dishonest robocalls; and those hateful and lie-filled "forwards" that are passed computer to computer and pass for political discourse these days.
The concept I was looking for was dialogue (yes, some words above are synonyms).
I have long been taken with a quotation I saw in Joseph Jaworsky’s book, "Synchronicity, the Inner Path of Leadership" (1996). Preceding the chapter on “Dialogue: The Power of Collective Thinking,” Jaworsky included the following quote from David Bohm’s "On Dialogue.” It speaks to this business of talking with, rather than talking to, over, or at others:
"From time to time, (the) tribe (gathered) in a circle.
They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to no purpose. They made no decisions. There was no leader. And everybody could participate.
There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more, the older ones, but everybody could talk.
The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed.
Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they understood each other so well. Then they could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things."
Of course, even such a concept as dialogue is susceptible to misuse: over four years ago my pastor tried to defuse what he called "inflammatory language" on an issue that still divides members in our large church. It was very obvious he was being pressured by and agreed with, one particular belief side. To all of us he wrote this in his Sunday Bulletin column: "We need to invite people into dialogue so that they can see the wisdom of our words and understand the moral rightness of our position."
So, one was right, the other wrong. I didn't feel that was "dialogue," and I told him so.
Yes, we are having huge problems in working out our differences in our society, and Ms. DeBrine is to be congratulated on taking on the issue of usage of a word.
But the dominant view, now, is to try to bludgeon the opposition into irrelevance by any and all means necessary.
I've seen it happen, including at meetings in our town.
I've been at a public meeting in this community (April 9, 2009) that was so tightly controlled that police were in attendance and certain questions were not welcome. Our role was to sit and listen, apparently.
I've been at another, fairly recently (Jan. 31, 2012), where an attempt to have an open conversation was dominated by a big loudmouth who stood in the back of the room and did his best to disrupt any attempt at civil discourse.
Some others were like teenagers disrupting class.
I've also been part of groups in Woodbury that attempted to do exactly what Kelly is trying to do. In fact, a few of us continue to stay in contact in civil conversation, though not in person.
I part company with Ms. DeBrine in one important respect. She says "we're all responsible for our democracy, it's not just the politicians."
In my view, every single one of us are the "politicians.” If we disconnect we'll get exactly what we deserve.
It is demeaning to those hard-working citizens of our town who are seeking public office this fall, to now call them just "politicians."
We are all "running for office" in November. We best act accordingly.