Author: Craig Freshley
I did it yesterday. As a volunteer for the Maine Democratic Party I knocked on doors and talked with strangers about the election. Have you decided who to vote for? Can I tell you who I am voting for, and why? It was a wonderful experience.
Many people were hungry to talk. I learned from some why voting is a sacred honor and from others why they don’t vote. I heard many theories; things I agreed with and things I didn’t. And I heard full color stories of real people about why they have changed their minds or why they are standing strong; the stories behind the numbers and trends we hear in the news.
And I’m pretty sure that for some people, this was the only in-person conversation they had for days. People are so isolated in the pandemic. If for no other reason, this is a great opportunity to break the monotony and offer a face-to-face connection to someone shut in.
Here in Maine both major parties are recruiting volunteers. They can get you trained and get you out there in a hurry. And if face-to-face is not your thing, they will be happy to train you to talk with strangers by phone. See https://www.mainedems.org/ and https://mainegop.com/.
If you are fed up with politics on social media and tired of shaking your first at your screen, I am double-daring you to get out there and engage for real; on actual doorsteps and in front yards of your fellow Americans. This is your chance.
And by the way I experienced no hostility and several versions of, “Thanks for doing this, man. Good for you. This is what we need.”
October 22, 2010
I have gotten into just one real argument about this election. I was having breakfast at the Washington DC International Youth Hostel and two strangers sat down to eat and chat. After some pleasantries the talk turned to politics and the man and woman started building on each other about how unfair it is that liberals are helping homeless people vote, helping them register, giving them rides to the polls. Outrageous! Apparently there was something in the news about it.
I watched them reinforce each other’s outrage until I just had to ask, “Why is it not okay to help every American vote?”
The arguments came back sharply about how “those people” were uneducated and lazy and unpatriotic. “Well any respectable black person should at least have a driver’s license,” one of them said. “It should be illegal for those people to vote,” was another comment.
To me these were fightin’ words. I pretty-much shouted that there is just one basic requirement for voting. One. Being American. You are totally allowed to be homeless, uneducated, lazy, black, and unrespectable…..and you are still allowed to vote. In fact I believe we especially need to hear from “those people.”
It turned into a thing. Strangers gathered around to watch. I had been triggered, as they say.
Here’s why. I’m all about arguing. I’m all about different views and opinions. Our disagreements have helped make America great. Yet when push comes to shove – before it turns into a fistfight – we vote. Everyone gets a say. Majority rules.
One thing that holds any group together is a way to settle conflicts by peaceful means. Here in the U.S., this is our peaceful means: Every few years we vote. Everyone gets a say. Majority rules. Of course there are many nuances but this is the basic way that we settle big disputes in America.
I have no tolerance for voter suppression. No tolerance for my fellow hostellers in that moment. To me voter suppression is unpatriotic. It’s not putting America first. It is showing allegiance to your cause more than allegiance to your country. It’s trashing our peaceful means to get your own way.
I think it’s better to lose than to cheat. In sports, following rules and accepting outcomes is how we show our respect for the game.
I don’t expect these posts to be so opinionated every time. It’s just the timing. As Americans we are about to make a big group decision and everyone should have a say.
October 20, 2020
That’s what an anti-Trump person asked me. He wrote, “Donald Trump is doing all in his power to divide our society and destroy our democracy and our nation.” He drew analogies to Hitler, Mussolini, and our own General Lee and the Confederates. “We weren’t civil to those people.” He argued. “Nor should we have been!”
Liberals should be civil to President Trump and his supporters because it’s your best shot at de-escalating conflict. We are not at war yet and until we are, the best chance we have to prevent war is by talking with each other. If you are not civil to your adversary, they won’t come to the table to talk. Conflict will escalate.
Being AT war is a different matter. The objective becomes not to prevent, but to win. And at that point you’ve got nothing to lose if you abandon civility. Win any way you can.
You might already have crossed over and see yourself as at war with the other side. If that’s the case this advice is not for you. But if you’re not there yet, show some respect to people on the other side. They have feelings and fears and dreams just like you. And even if it’s hard for moral reasons, show respect for practical reasons. It’s your best chance to avoid war.
In principle, consensus among the whole group is worth the effort when decisions are intended to transcend generations. Consensus is achieved when every member of the group understands and consents to the same thing. It is much more arduous to make consensus decisions than it is to make majority-rule decisions or executive decisions. However, because they achieve full understanding and consent among all members, consensus decisions are much more likely to last. When there is real consensus about a decision there is no disgruntled minority working to change it later.
For a board of directors deciding its mission, values, or high-level policies — things intended to endure for future generations of board members — taking the time to develop consensus among all members is worth the effort. For deciding what the board will have for lunch — a decision that lasts only through dessert — consensus is not worth the effort.
Practical Tip: For every decision, consider how long it’s expected to last and choose an appropriate decision-making method. Be deliberate about using consensus for some things, majority vote for other things, and delegate the short-order things to individuals. We let individuals make short-term decisions on behalf of the members because we trust they will be in keeping with long-term decisions decided by consensus of all the members.
– Craig Freshley
In principle, we know we’re prone to make mistakes; it’s part of being human. And, we know that mistakes are our best teachers. Learning from small mistakes prevents big mistakes. Yet we’re prone to cover up our mistakes, especially in our groups, and this can make a mess of things.
Collaborative decisions require humility among group members. I serve my group when I say, “I don’t have all the answers, I don’t do everything right, and it is okay for others to not be perfect.”
Accepting that we are not perfect frees us to move on from mistakes without burden. Admitting mistakes helps us learn from them and let go of them.
Practical Tip: Be on honest watch for mistakes, perhaps by taking a regular evening recount of the day’s successes and mistakes. I try to isolate my mistakes from mistakes or behaviors of others—what was my part? In the case of a mistake made, admit your mistake to yourself and at least one other person. If an apology or amend is in order, do it.
Humility lightens our load and our outlook.
– Craig Freshley
In principle, big ideas are always the result of putting our heads together. Really big ideas are already out there in the heads of many people just waiting to be put together. Without sharing my ideas with fellows and without openness to new ideas I am a prisoner of my own limitations, incapable of more than I can imagine.
Practical Tip: I serve the group best when I am humble. I accept that I probably don’t have all the best answers and if I do, the question is surely small. I talk with others about my ideas and their ideas. I release my ideas, let them be criticized, and let others build on them. I trust the wisdom of the group.
It’s okay that I don’t understand everything; that it doesn’t all fit in my head. I am open to ideas and achievements beyond my imagination.
– Craig Freshley
At a time of isolation and screens, setting up a neighborhood Little Free Library has been a joy.
The kids were grateful to have a project. And the parents were grateful for the kids to have a project!
We ordered a kit from the nonprofit organization called Little Free Library.
Step one: prime all the parts!
And figure out how to put it all together.
Screwing on the roof!
Five wet paintbrushes at the same time!
Screwing on the door!
And we needed a little footbridge to access our Little Free Library across a ditch. So we built that too.
Hammer. Hammer. Hammer.
All hands on deck!
Sawing the post.
We had a Grand Opening!
Kids delivered paper invites to every house on our street and around the neighborhood.
We cut a ribbon and people brought books to start the library.
Waiting to put books in the library.
More books in the library!
We have officially registered our Little Free Library and so we are on a global map with over 100,000 registered Little Free Libraries around the world.
Of course there are many unregistered book boxes too.
It’s such a fun way to bring neighbors together.
And promote reading.
Here I am with some of the kids who helped.
In principle, good group decisions are based on shared understanding and shared understanding comes from asking questions of each other. When we tell a peer what they should do without first asking their opinion, we risk having made a decision without the benefit of all available information. And we risk missing the opportunity for advance support of the decision.
Don’t ask, don’t tell contributes to inaction. Tell, don’t ask contributes to oppression. Ask, don’t tell contributes to good group decisions and resulting good actions.
Practical Tip: In relations among relatively equal peers, ask someone’s opinion before telling them what to do.
Facilitating leaders ask. Commanding leaders tell. Facilitating shared understanding and advance support for an action dramatically increases chances of it being implemented well.
Asking rather than telling is a spiritual attitude of humility and a practical way to muster all available information and enthusiasm.
– Craig Freshley
In principle, groups are apt to make better decisions when they do so with a sense of reverence; that is, when they are serious and focused, when group members feel that something special is happening, when there is extra respect for the moment and for each other. Reverence is associated with a sense of humility; a sense that there is more happening here than I alone can comprehend or control. Indeed that’s the thing about group decisions. It’s about more than just me.
Practical Tip: Instill reverence into your group decision making. Be fully present. Show respect for your group process and for each other.
Some groups instill reverence by beginning meetings with a pledge or a prayer or at least a call to order. Other groups instill reverence by meeting in a special place or wearing deliberate clothes or using formal speech or titles. Other signs of reverence are listening without interruption and turning off cell phones and other distractions.
Reverence is an outward showing of inward feelings of respect. To be reverent is to signal others that one is focused and serious, doing something special, that one is humble: all qualities that help chances of making good group decisions.
You might make group decisions without any sense of reverence, but then how does anyone know that the decision is to be taken seriously?
– Craig Freshley