Both of these sources (Limerick’s history post and the webinar) talk about people in the middle.
The Colorado Media Project had an interesting webinar on “Reclaiming the Public Square: Trust, Media and Democracy in Post-Election Colorado.” I think it’s worth watching to get the views of (some) media folks on problems and solutions. The presentation by Stephen Hawkins runs from 5:06 to 18:00 and was my first introduction to More in Common
More in Common works on both short and longer term initiatives to address the underlying drivers of fracturing and polarization, and build more united, resilient and inclusive societies.
More in Common divides Americans politically into eight “Tribes” (see the chart above). Following that is a presentation about some Gallup polling that put people into three political categories (Ds, Is and R’s)(see chart above). It would be interesting to take some forest-related questions and see what different narratives might result from dividing folks who answer into three or eight categories. My guess is that eight would yield more understanding of peoples’ points of view. You don’t have to be a sociologist of science to think that how you structure the study (what groups you choose, exactly what questions you ask) can affect the answers you obtain.
Patty Limerick had an interesting idea in her “Not My First Rodeo” post History’s Essential Workers about the role of interpreters in Western history.
A Familiar Story from the Past, A Fresh Approach for the Present
As Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean, the terrain they crossed presented an almost unfathomable variety of landforms. And yet the diversity of the languages they encountered proved far more difficult to comprehend.
At every stage of the trip, the expedition encountered a group that spoke a different language. On a few occasions, this required Clark and Lewis to engage in an early nineteenth century experimentation with what would later be called “the telephone game,” a chain of interpreters lined up to pass on a single message. In one episode when clear communication was of great importance, Lewis spoke in English to a French soldier from the expedition. The soldier then spoke in French to the expedition’s official interpreter, Toussaint Charbonneau. Charbonneau then spoke in Hidatsa to Sacagawea, who spoke in Shoshone to a leader of that tribe. And then the process reversed: Shoshone to Hidatsa to French to English.
Here’s an idea that we suspect no one else has proposed: this would be a good time to adopt his chain of translation and put it to use to our world today.
There is no mistaking our national dilemma: people who are firmly committed to one political position are unable to communicate with people who are firmly committed to an opposite political position.
Lewis and Clark offer us a promising technique.
A far-left progressive Democrat would speak to a centrist Democrat. The moderate Democrat would speak to a centrist Republican. The centrist Republican would speak to a far-right Republican, who could then offer his response to the centrist Republican, and that response would then move back along the chain.
After a few messages have traveled back and forth through the chain, the time would be right for a designated interpreter to step in. Asking everyone to pause, the interpreter could ask everyone a few debriefing questions: “What did you just hear? Was it what you expected to hear? Where do you agree and disagree? Were there parts that you simply did not understand and that need more explanation? Do you need to keep using this chain of indirection, or are you ready now to talk with each other?”
Limerick has an interesting idea but in our forest world, I’m not sure our views fall into neat political categories whether three, four as in Limerick, or eight. Thoughts?