Thursday, I was one of four bilerico.com posters who attended an American Values Alliance event -- Bil and Jerame were both there, as was Ed Fox. We were joined by a group of around 35 others, young and old, "heavy hitters" and impoverished college professors (okay, maybe not impoverished, but certainly not well-compensated enough to make the "heavy hitter" category!) (For more about the event, visit the AVA website.)
Talking to Each Other
The topic was how to talk about really hot-button issues productively--whether Americans can stop shouting at each other when we really feel passionate about something, and how we might do that without at the same time diminishing our resolve and commitment to those issues. I was on the panel, and my topic was the detainee bill; if you want to see my "take" on this assignment, my remarks are posted at my personal site. John Clark talked about immigration policy and Bill Groth, President of the American Values Alliance, talked about Indiana's voter ID law.
The gay community knows a lot about intemperate public dialogue. You're in the middle of it, and you know how hard it is to work for equality and civil liberties when others are intent upon demonizing you. You also know how hard it is to avoid demonizing right back. (Time for a confession here--I share the temptation to write off as nutcases or bigots those who want to control my body, make my son a second-class citizen, and create a Christian nation to the specifications of their particular biblical vision. I know it is both uncivil and unhelpful......but I understand the impulse.)
What was really heartening was the group discussion. There really are a great many good people right here in Indianapolis who want to bring Americans together rather than set one group against another. There are people of good will who are less invested in their particular point of view than in the proposition that all Americans are entitled to a place at the communal table.
When the brown-bag broke up, there were many requests for more such opportunities to talk to each other about how we talk to each other--and how we can come together to affirm those American values that most Americans really do hold dear: individual liberty, civic equality, civility, and respect for the rights of others.