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Our Peaceful Means to Settle Disputes

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.

Why be civil to Trump and his supporters?

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.

Consensus for endurance

 Good Group Tips

 

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

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