Are you tired of the partisan bickering? The two-sided, red vs. blue narrative that serves only to reinforce party platitudes rather than get to the heart of an issue? The Bridge Alliance, a powerful coalition of civic action groups, is behind a new effort to change all of that.
Most Americans believe our inability to talk to each other civilly has reached a crisis level. Therefore, the Bridge Alliance and 100 sponsoring organizations are declaring April 20-28 the "National Week of Conversation."
Try discussing politics with someone and you might get an eye roll or a heavy sigh of exacerbation in response. There are many Americans who have simply checked out completely because all they hear is anger, fear, and hate.
See how quickly a conversation on any political topic on social media devolves into name-calling, generalized, unsupported claims, hyperbolic rhetoric, and a complete disregard for what the "other side" is saying.
And the problem isn't just on social media. We see this tribalistic approach in the mainstream media, which intentionally acts as an echo chamber for one ideological extreme or the other to confirm people’s preconceived notions of the world around them.
There is no substance, no nuance -- just stale talking points that cherry pick information to fit a particular narrative. The real issues and an effort to find long-term solutions get lost in a sea of noise.
This is why Bridge Alliance Co-Directors David Nevins and Debilyn Molineaux believe the National Week of Conversation is so important.
"This all started because every time I see some type of national crisis, whether it is a mass shooting, or a natural disaster, or something impacts us and we get captured by the 24-hour news cycle, people keep saying we need to have a national conversation about this, and yet nothing ever happens -- nobody ever sits down and says, 'Hey, let's figure out a way to do this.'"
And people are frustrated. People are angry. They feel like they are not being listened to. And in response, millions of people have taken to the streets to march for one cause or another.
Some people are marching against the president. Some people are marching in support of the president. Some people are marching on gun issues or free speech or to protest social inequality or wage inequality or for the protection of reproductive rights or for science.
These marches have given people an outlet to vent their anger, their frustrations, and their fears, but we still lack a meaningful national conversation on the issues at hand, and that is because our politics has become not only extremely partisan, but extremely reactionary.
Lawmakers only conduct a high-profile hearing on online privacy and data collection when Facebook makes headlines. We only talk about gun issues when there is a mass shooting in an affluent suburban area -- and it only stays in the collective consciousness for a few days because that is how long it stays in the media’s spotlight.
And because our politics has become so reactionary, the way we talk to each other has as well, and as Debilyn Molineaux says, "our social infrastructure is breaking down."
The irony of course is that we, as a society, have never been more interconnected thanks to social media. Yet the loudest voices online, and in the media, are the most polarizing voices -- the ones that target our tribalistic nature, and fan the flames of divisiveness.
And it doesn't take much. Once someone is called a "liberal idiot" or "conservative troll" that is where the conversation ends, and the rest is just noise.
We will never move forward on guns, immigration, race relations, the economy, or any other issue if we can't make it through the first sentence without resorting to personal or partisan attacks -- if we continue to talk at each other, instead of with each other.
"The one thing I like to say the Bridge Alliance does, and the National Week of Conversation is supporting, is that we help support healthy relationships between people, so we can do good work together," says Molineaux.
"Ultimately, party -- no party, it doesn't really matter. It's back to getting 'We the People' involved in our system." - Debilyn Molineaux
David Nevins says the National Week of Conversation fits into the broader tapestry approach of the Bridge Alliance and its partners.
"This is the first part of weaving that tapestry by bringing Americans together, so we can then address all the problems facing our political system, and hopefully revitalize our democracy to be all that we expect it to be," says Nevins.
To get more information about the National Week of Conversation or how to sponsor your own conversation, visit the event's website here.