Political Discussion with Civility
American Public Square
Most of us remember this past presidential election cycle with despair. The arguments, the “fake-news”, the “alternative facts”, the name-calling, and so much more left us with a feeling that political discussion is doomed for failure.
Many now feel there are no positive results to be found in having a political discussion, especially with someone from the other side of the partisan line.
American Public Square, however, aims to demonstrate that these conversations can indeed be pleasant and productive, even in our current tense political climate.
“American Public Square is a series of community programs, and the organization is a group of non-like-minded people who are willing to participate in a program on a controversial issue that fact-based and civil”, said Dr. Allan Katz, founder of American Public Square.
“The idea behind it, essentially, is to demonstrate that people, who have very strong opinions, who don’t agree with each other, can nonetheless, have that disagreement based on facts,” said Katz, “without demonizing people with whom you disagree.”
AMERICAN PUBLIC SQUARE EVENTS
Fostering such conversations is difficult in a time where controversial topics are met with blind allegiance to talking points and party lines. American Public Square wants to help avoid this problem.
“We create panels of people who have different points of view”, said Katz. ” and we turn it into a conversation as opposed to a confrontation.”
“We have real-time fact checkers, so people can’t make stuff up. Or if they do make it up, they get caught at it”, said Katz. “The idea is not to embarrass people, but to give them a chance to walk it back.”
Restoring A Concept of Civility
Political discussions are often noted for turning into angry name-calling. “It seems like most of the time now if we find someone that doesn’t agree with us, doesn’t matter if you’re coming from the left or the right, we ascribe the worst possible motives to why they don’t agree with us”, said Dr. Katz. “We turn on television and we see, basically food fights, pass as political discussions.”
American Public Square also has a plan to handle that tendency for the discussions to turn mean-spirited. “We have what we call our civility bell, where a number of people have it and if someone gets uncivil, they ring the bell and everything stops and we kind of reboot and start all over again”, said Dr. Katz. “We’re trying to provide a safe place where people who don’t agree can come and disagree agreeably.”
American Public Square’s next event is this Thursday, November 9, 2017 at UMKC’s Pierson Auditorium and is called “Bad Choices. No Choices. Food Insecurity.”
This event will feature panelists discussing ways to ensure reliable access to affordable, healthy, fresh food.
Their next event is Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, MO and is called “NATO. Truman to Trump.”
This event will feature panelists discussing NATO’s role in the post-Cold War era, the United States’ obligations vis-a-vis other NATO members, and if NATO is up to the challenges of 21st-century security,
American Public Square Membership
American Public Square operates on a membership model and you can learn more about how to acquire a membership, or a even a guest pass, by going to the American Public Square Membership Page or by listening to episode 4 of Tim and Tom where Dr. Allan Katz discusses the organization, it’s history, and it’s future.
American Public Square will not solve every political issue. They hope, however, to demonstrate that there can indeed be civil conversations, even between non-like-minded people, that don’t turn into arguments.
“You’re not turning liberals into conservatives or vice versa, but hopefully what you’re doing is that you’re letting people understand that there is another point of view which is not born out of meanness or lack of concern about their country”, said Dr. Katz. “It’s rather just a different point of view.”