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Jan 2021~Healing Our Communities

 | Published on 2/2/2021


If you really, sincerely want to help close the Great American Divide between red & blue, left & right, liberal & conservative, listen up.

We can point you in the right direction, thanks to what we learned at Thursday’s League of Women Voters Hot Topics Zoom event – a joint venture of the Seminole and Orange LWV organizations.

Billed as “Healing Our Communities,” the timely program highlighted two approaches to bridging the divide – one presented by Dr. Thomas Bryer, program director of the Office of Downtown Community-Engaged Scholarship of the University of Central Florida, and the second by Liz Joyner, founder and CEO of the Tallahassee-based Village Square educational forum.

Both stressed the need for dialogue, public participation, resolving conflict and civility in this era of social, political and racial divides.

To that end, Village Square presents several programs annually on such topics as the covid-19 vaccines, cancel culture and conspiracies. Joyner called the group’s workshops, panel discussions and dinners the town halls of the 21st century. She said we have forgotten our own notion of American democracy, a bold idea that has been copied worldwide and now appears to be in trouble at home. (Besides Tallahassee, there is one other Florida chapter in Fort Lauderdale.)

Bryer, too, presents community discussions by getting diverse groups of people together. The country is “strong in ballot-box democracy,” he said, “but not in neighborhood democracy.”

The divide is not a new problem, but Bryer said he had seen an urgent need for dialogue in the last year especially. “If we do civility right,” he said, “it will bring justice, fairness and equity.” It might go without saying, but he notes that listening is as important as speaking.

Going beyond dialogues and conversations, Bryer said that the path should lead from there to volunteer initiatives, national service and devoting time and money. And he recommended that the League partner with other groups like higher education. (The LWV, of course, has partnered with other groups on such projects as felon rights and fair districting and also has an active Speakers Bureau.)

For more information on Village Square, go to TLH.villagesquare.us.

Bryer recommended checking out upcoming dialogues on vaccines by going to https://lu.ma/vaccineconversations
and also said the National Issues Forums (www.nifi.org) is a good source for more information.