Summer is here and it’s absolutely not going as planned. Amidst the catastrophe of a global pandemic, one thing does seem all too familiar — the depth of our political division is on full display as we struggle to cooperate even when our lives depend on it. So we’ve clearly got work to do.
With maybe more than the usual time spent on your couch, we’re bringing back our summer tradition — our friendly challenge to our neighbors to “Swim Against the Tribe.” Below you’ll find reading material to learn more about the problem and the solution as well as suggestions about how one might dip your toe into the water of empathy toward people with different political perspectives. Don’t worry, we won’t throw you into the deep end without floaties on.
It took a lot of time for us to get isolated into feuding information silos, it will take awhile to get out.
We challenge you to think of balancing what Robert Putnam calls “bonding” and “bridging.” Sure, spend lots of time with people you have lots in common with – that even includes diving into the information sources you currently trust. But make a little “bridging” a part of your life habit as well – every once in awhile stretch toward those you disagree with – check out that other newspaper or TV channel. A politician you dislike just says something that confirms your dislike? Seek out the full text of the comments and the context around them. Give them the benefit of the doubt you’d give someone on your side of the aisle. Ask yourself what the consequences are if your tribe is wrong factually on this or that.
And at a time when the rhetoric is growing increasingly extreme, one of the most important things we can all do now is encourage moderation among people who agree with us. As anger escalates, so do the costs of our failure to do so — and our failure to give roughly 50% of our fellow citizens some benefit of the doubt.
Do you have great articles or resources to recommend as a part of this year’s Swim? Email us your suggestions.