From my point of view, it has always been essential to understand the thinking of our neighbor’s. I am not saying that it is a common practice or that I am good at it. And I do believe that to appreciate how others feel about being ‘included’ or ‘not so included’ in the community is a big part of what it takes to make a community. To be aware of their view of the future and possibility that may lie ahead for them, their family or their friends.
Now, in February of 2017, it is becoming more and more clear to many of us that we don’t have access to our ‘neighbors’ thinking other than through parody or even mockery.
I have been looking for accessible voices of those that might be able to help me understand how it is that so many of my American ‘neighbors’ choose to support Donald Trump.
We benefit from living in East Lansing: and one of the many benefits is that each February, at MSU, there is the Slavery to Freedom lecture series open to the entire community. It is a tremendous resource! Last week’s speaker was Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post opinion writer, MSNBC contributor, and he made several excellent points provoking thought and discussion. The comment that stuck with me is when he challenged us all to seek out voices other than the voices that we agree with in an attempt to learn more, understand more and appreciate more.
Jonathan has a podcast, Cape Up and as I was listening to some of his interviews, I came across this recent one. Arthur Brooks explains on January 24th how dignity links Trump to Obama. I found it fascinating and thought provoking. I started to think a little deeper than I had been about how others chose to vote for Trump.
Go to iTunes, or whatever you get your podcasts and search for Cape Up and then listen to Jonathan’s conversation with Arthur Brooks from January 24, 2017.
To anybody who wants to explore a thoughtful new podcast, I recommend Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart.
What will bring us together?
How can we – with others, especially others that look at things very differently – develop a shared preferred future?
What keeps us from working across differences toward the common good?
What happens when we do nothing at all to attempt to impact the status qou, even when we believe that the status quo is not serving the common good?
What stops us from embracing our dissimilarities and our similarities while tackling the challenges that are important to all of us as we move toward a shared preferred future?
How can we hear all voices and listen for and appreciate what is unique about the points of view of others?
How can we build trust and rapport across differences?
How can we get better at seeking to understand others and exploring possibilities where none existed before – rather than to win over others?
In his book: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (2013) Malcom Gladwell explains that his major purposes for writing this book are connected what can happen when ordinary people (read you and me) confront giants. He sees two basic ways to frame these encounters with giants we all experience.
“The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.” (page 6)
Might the challenge of facing this ‘lopsided conflict’ the questions that opened this post focus on – be our “giants”? Might we embracing these questions and working through them be about ‘facing overwhelming odds’? And if so, might we ‘produce greatness’?
Might the confronting the shared work around the questions that opened this post uncover that the giants confronted are weaker than we thought? Might moving forward on the engagement and sorting out which will follow from the sincere connection to these questions potentially ‘open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable?’
*Some of these questions were influenced by Michael J. Marquardt’s work: Leading With Questions: How Leaders Find Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask Revised and Updated (2014)