The occasion of this question was discussed at a recent gathering in Boston of NCDD, the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. This rhetorical question was reported by the convener of a public dialogue in New Hampshire, where they were having a community discussion after the Newtown shootings. He reported that some people show up at their meetings carrying guns… don’t ask me, apparently that’s legal in New Hampshire 😉 These people protest that the very notion that you would invite the public to deliberate on policy decisions goes against the Constitution – i.e. we elected politicians to make those decisions for us; let them do their job and stay out of their way.
Wow, really? Seems like we’re operating with different definitions of democracy.
Looks like we have a lot of work to do.
In response to this anecdote, someone responded “this raises the question: What does it mean to be human?” Good question. I took this a little further, thinking that it raises the question: What does it mean to be part of a community? What is our obligation to one another? These seem like fundamental questions for us to address in the US right now, re. gun control, civil rights such as “stand your ground” in Florida, police authority, the relationship between racism and our criminal justice and judicial systems – just for a start!
This generated another question for me: How do we heal communities? How do we bring people together in ways that they/we see their/our common humanity? How can I/we learn to trust or appreciate people with whom I/we have strong differences of opinion?
There are committed people raising these critical questions and trying to figure out how to bridge the divide. NCDD and its members are at the forefront of having these conversations. If you’re interested, they’re having a conference call on August 7 with Rich Harwood, founder of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in Bethesda, Maryland.