Read on if you are tired of hearing that bipartisanship is dead; weary of media reports of dysfunction in government; tired of listening to pundits who tell us that our nation's lawmakers are beyond the ability to legislate. This is for those who would like to hear something different -- that there is reason for hope. Rest assured that you are not alone.
This message will not appeal to everyone. If you firmly believe that hope is a four letter word that tricked voters into electing Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, I suggest you stop here. If you are a staunch follower of extremist hate-mongers, please don’t debate what I write. These words will not change your views, nor is that my intention.
However, if you are open to the suggestion that change is not only desirable, but possible, please continue. I do not dispute what you have heard, read, and seen about the seemingly insurmountable problems we face. The problems are real, and I do not suggest that they are easy to fix.
Yet there is another side, often hidden from public view. I bring to you the encouraging news that there are efforts underway to solve these problems. Forces are working behind the scenes to move us forward as a nation. It's time for some reassurance that these efforts can succeed.
A myriad of organizations, grassroots causes, political efforts and individuals are leading the charge to solve America’s political divisions. These efforts share in common a commitment, not just to label and describe problems, but to enact solutions.The average citizen seems unaware that these efforts even exist, which comes as no surprise. Conflict is newsworthy; agreement is not. Adversity is strength; compromise is for the weak. Those who champion fixing the problems take a back seat in the mainstream media to those who rile us up emphasizing the negative.
Instead, we need to refocus on the organizations and people devoted to making the country a better place; a place where progress can be achieved. We must educate ourselves, and each another, about these efforts.
National bipartisan and nonpartisan think tanks, such as the Bipartisan Policy Center, No Labels, Third Way, and Center Forward, have made it their mission to combat divisiveness and gridlock, and promote lasting solutions. Their successes have been mounting.
Grassroots efforts such as The Village Square and the Coffee Party encourage civil engagement and foster problem-solving in participatory public venues. They have taken public discourse and problem solving to new heights, and (as they expand) bring these ideals to an ever-widening populous.
There are political figures like former Senator Olympia Snowe, who has devoted her time since leaving public office to facilitate consensus-building. Her activities have encouraged ordinary citizens to become a force for positive change.Academic researchers, like Jonathan Haidt and his organization
CivilPolitics.org, enable practices for individuals and groups to bridge political and moral divisions and encourage mutual understanding. They have discovered new ways to make social research relevant to political problem-solving.
Similarly, the National Institute for Civil Discourse calls on leaders and citizens alike to participate in civil and thoughtful national dialogue. The NICD's leaders include Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and a host of other legislators, cabinet secretaries, educators, and journalists. This is an impressive cast of characters, all working to achieve a common goal of a government responsive to the interests of its people.
Countless other individuals, like writers P.M. Forni and Stephen Carter, promote principles of civility in politics and society-at-large. Forni is the founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project. With an emphasis on community outreach, he promotes ideals of strengthening social bonds and human interaction in his lectures, writings, and other activities. Carter, a law professor at Yale, author, and columnist, engages his readers to be part of a more civil society.
What becomes clear upon some digging is that these efforts exist, and progress has been made. But the question remains, why are these activities hidden from plain sight? How can they be brought to the forefront of public awareness?
Visit these links; educate yourself on these organizations and their accomplishments. Start the New Year with a sense of hope and optimism that if enough people believe we are traveling down the right path, a positive result is inevitable. Happy New Year America!