CoastLine: Beneath The Surface IV

Apr 25, 2019

A dozen or so people, diverse in age, ethnicity, and political leanings, have agreed to be part of a year-long experiment in civil discourse.  Each month, we bring you a conversation with some members of the group.  Our aim:  to observe whether the tone and quality of the conversation changes as they get to know one another over the course of the year. 

And to be fully transparent, this is an attempt to go beyond civil discourse – to something deeper, more meaningful, and arguably more difficult.  As Arthur Brooks notes in his book Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From The Culture Of Contempt, going for civility in our political discourse or tolerance for differing viewpoints is a pitifully low standard.  Don’t believe it?, he asks.  Then tell people, “My spouse and I are civil to each other,” and they’ll tell you to get counseling.  Or say, “My coworkers tolerate me,” and they’ll ask how your job search is going.

On this edition of BTS, we’ll address feedback from listeners – and we’ll also tackle some internal feedback – issues that participants have raised about interactions with other members of the group.

Remember, this is hard.  It’s why the country is as divided as it is.  Because what we typically do when it gets hard is leave the room.  It’s easier to leave the room then it is to stand with the other person and feel all the things – especially contempt – whether it’s coming at us or coming from us. 

Not only is contempt impractical – good luck filling up all your rooms with people who agree with you – it’s also, according to Social Psychologist John Gottman, unhealthy.  Contempt causes a comprehensive degradation of the immune system and impairs cognitive process.  So it’s not only bad for your relationships; it’s bad for your physical health.  That’s true of both contempt giver and receiver. 

So let’s start by tackling some moments that have caused division in our group.    

In February, Darrell and Khalisa had an exchange that sparked some emails from listeners – but also left at least one of them feeling uncertain about whether to continue with this project. 

Our topic was education – and Darrell was explaining his experience growing up in a small town in the midwest…

[SOUND FROM FEBRUARY DISCUSSION]

Khalisa responds with her experience growing up in a mostly-white midwestern community as a child of color – and how her teacher – who was later fired – accused her of not doing her own work…

Later in that same conversation, Darrell comes back with his view of how discrimination is different in the North and South…

[SOUND FROM FEBRUARY DISCUSSION]

Now we’re here with Connette, a health insurance broker, Darrell, a retired engineer, Khalisa, a writer and publisher, Jim, a glass artist, and Morgan, who recently earned her Master’s Degree through the Creative Writing program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.