October 16, 2019 Meeting Minutes

Meeting was called to order at 7:05 PM by Liz Swanson.

7:00-8:30–Discussion of the book Polarized with the authors, Paris Donahoo and Keith Parsons

Keith M. Parsons is a professor of philosophy at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He is the author of nine previous books including It Started with Copernicus, Rational Episodes, and God and the Burden of Proof, as well as articles or chapters in the American Rationalist, Oxford Dialogues in Christian Theism, The Oxford Handbook of Natural Theology, and other publications.

Paris N. Donehoo recently retired as the senior pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Elgin, Illinois. He has also served as a chaplain and bereavement coordinator for Hospice of West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois, and as an adjunct professor in the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching degree program at Chicago Theological Seminary. He is the author of one previous book and articles in Christian Century, Christian Ministry, and other journals.

Paris Donehoo was former pastor of Park Ridge Community Church. He joined the discussion in person. Keith Parsons joined the discussion by phone.

Introduction

  • Our friendship. Met in first grade. Got back in touch and found that while they had gone in different directions, they had more in common than differences.
  • How the book came to be.
  • This is not a book attacking the current administration’s policies. Reasonable people can disagree over the best course of action to take on any number of issues.

Truthfulness

  • Truth is something you speak. Tell it like it is.
  • Truth is something you practice, living in congruence with professed values.
  • An authentic life is one lived in conformity with your deepest commitments and values.
  • To live authentically also means embracing uncertainty, since our deepest commitments involve both choice and trust.

What happens when that choice is made in a vacuum, or without reflection, or from selfish motives (either consciously or unconsciously)?

  • A post-truth era.
    • Nothing new about politicians and others who lie.
    • Been going on since the serpent presented “alternative facts” in the Garden of Eden.
    • We come to the assumptions we want in order to suit our own purposes.
    • Problem now is the “echo chamber” of social media and the 24 hour news cycle.
    • We don’t have to test assumptions anymore. There is always someone who will confirm our suspicions.

If you start from a position of mistrust, you will usually find malevolent intent behind any statement or action you don’t like.

How can we find common ground?

  • Don’t take the bait of those who just want to argue.
  • Be humble.
  • Hold yourself and others to rigorous standards of truth.
  • If you are a Christian, become more Christlike.

Civility

  • “Bless his/her heart” justifies any critical description.
  • Truth sometimes conflicts with civility.
  • Disagreement without demonizing is the goal.

Ridicule and Humor

  • Ridicule only the powerful, never the powerless.
  • Ridicule people for the bad, stupid, or dangerous things they have done, not for what they cannot help.
  • Don’t base mockery on offensive stereotypes such as those about race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.
  • Observe the limits of taste and decency even when you ridicule (Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee did not observe the limits.)
  • The Smothers Brothers ridiculed LBJ who agreed that politicians need to expect ridicule and humor at their expense.
  • “The Devil can do anything except laugh.”

Breakdown of Civility

  • Nothing will change until each person realizes he or she contributes either the survival of civility or its demise.
  • Civility and civilization derive from the same Latin root.

Restoring Civility

  • There has never been a “golden age of civility” to which we can return.
  • Be civil toward each other.
  • Practice self-control.

Community

  • The vision of E Pluribus Unum versus American love for individualism causes confusion.
  • Much of what passes for community is actually pseudo-community.
  • “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12)

Community Breaks Down When

  • Sustaining enmity becomes more important than achieving anything of mutual benefit.
  • Individuals and/or groups cling to power at all costs.
  • We revert to tribalism.

The problem is not politics. The problem is partisanship.

Achieving Community in a Fractured Society

  • Talk to each other.
  • Create communities of Objectivity.
  • And Communities of Discernment.
  • Act “righteously”.

Q&A

  1. How can humans develop empathy for each other? A. By finding out about people. Try to encounter them in other than a confrontational context. Find common ground, ways to work together.
  2. How do you maintain hope? How are we going to get out of this mess? A. I know that the institutions of this country have great strength as long as we continue to support them. Democracies are fragile unless we insist on supporting our institutions. It takes participation; we need to roll up our sleeves and get involved. (This is what Action Ridge participants do.)
  3. How do you have a conversation with someone if they don’t even believe in facts? A. Would be helpful if we could restore respect for science. Not a lot to do when someone has a closed mind. Continue to be willing to have the discussion with those who are open to it.
  4. How to maintain civility when someone is offensive (racist, sexist, misogynistic)? A. Ask a few gentle questions to draw them out. Get them to see the foolishness of what they’re saying. “What if you were living in El Salvador and MS13 was trying to recruit your 12 year old…..would you consider trying to get to the US?” Try to get them to see the people they are condemning as people.
  5. When you feel contempt from someone you’re talking to, how do you handle that? A. Try not to react emotionally. Keep the conversation loving. Take the time to listen.

BUSINESS PORTION OF THE MEETING:

8:30-8:45—Overview of actions since our last meeting

  • Equity Discussion Group meeting planned for Wednesday, October 30th from 7:00—9:00 (Note that we can meet at 7:00 and for two hours in the church library),

Discussion of the book So You Want to Talk about Race, which is available at the Park Ridge Public Library (on hold in the reference department).  Will also discuss where we go from here, how to take action.

Plans for upcoming meetings:

  • Review of Gun Violence Prevention actions by Joan Bludeau LaVelle
    • Law passed Gun Dealer Certification Law – NRA planning to fight in. Wrote letter on behalf of Action Ridge.
    • Fix the FOID. When taking away a license, make sure they take away any guns.
    • Association for IL School Board – will have vote about arming teachers and staff in November. Call all districts (64, 207, etc.) Vote no on resolutions 1 and 3.
    • From League of Women Voters:

Action Needed: Call your Elementary and High School Superintendent’s office and leave the following message: “My name is _____ and I am [a resident of the School District and/or parent of a child in _School]. Please convey my request that our School Board instruct our School Board delegate to the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) vote “NO” on Resolutions 1 and 3 during the conference in November.” Last year, the Resolution on Arming Teachers was defeated by only 24 votes, so your input is ESSENTIAL. For more info click here.

  • Upcoming Get Out the Vote and Voter Registration Actions from Barbara Murphy Sanders and Marilyn Novak
    • Get out the vote – Get voter registration lists. Are we a legally documented political organization? No, so we cannot get electronic lists. If we get the lists we can call people to get out the vote.
    • Will try to set up registration events at Triton, Harper.
  • Ranked Choice Voting efforts update by Pat Lofthouse
    • Oct 5 – Fair Vote IL met. Ideas for targeting different groups – Rotary, Lions, etc.
    • Targeting Black Caucus, Asian American Caucus, Election Committee.
    • Claris met with LWV PR and Oak Park.
    • Victor Shi (Activist at Stevenson High School) met with Deerfield LWV.
    • Laura Murphy has introduced the bill – officially October 26 and it will be available online. Used Hawaii’s bill and changed it to IL.
    • FairVote.org – all info about Ranked Choice Voting
    • com – https://news.wttw.com/2019/02/28/how-does-ranked-choice-voting-work
    • Next meeting November 2. Roden Branch, Chicago Public Library, 6083 N. Northwest Highway. 11AM
  • October 21, 5:30 – 7PM Sponsored by League of Women Voters, Chicago. https://my.lwv.org/illinois/chicago
    • Christian Picciolini, former extremist and author, and Maureen Loughnane, Executive Director of Facing History and Ourselves Chicago, will discuss white nationalism in our own backyard, how we can be alert for it, and what we can do about it. If you’d like to go, contact Kristen Olson.
  • More information from Kristen–Do Not Stand Idly By http://donotstandidlyby.org/ – bought stock in Smith and Wesson to go to inventor meetings, force votes to do research on gun violence.
  • Park Ridge Women Interfaith Breakfast – Saturday, October 19. Contact Kate Kerin or Catherine Inserra if interested in attending.

8:45-9:00—Suggestions for the November and December meetings

  • Workshop with Sarah Dennis and her colleague from SURJ (Showing up for Racial Justice) on November 14th
  • A social get-together on December 12 to celebrate our almost three years of action —toys accepted for the Institute for Non-Violence
  • January 9, possible presentation on the subject of Immigration.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:12

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