Consider Who Isn’t Coming 'To The Table'...

Then Consider Joining Us at The table

A new survey reports 71 percent of Americans believe important societal discussions have been silenced by political correctness; and most Americans now feel discouraged from sharing heartfelt opinions and beliefs.

“Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe the political climate today prevents them from saying things they believe,” notes Emily Ekins, author of the 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey report. In some subgroups, up to 73 percent feel forced into silence, she reports.

Released Oct. 31, Ekins' report details opinions on an array of issues surrounding free speech and tolerance. From the mission perspective of Citizens4Community (C4C), though, the percentages noted above dramatically stand out and have far-reaching implications in terms of our work in Sisters Country.

C4C’s non-partisan mission—to further civility, collaboration and civic engagement—relies on abundant and healthy communication. We want to see Sisters Country thrive—socially, economically and culturally. So, we seek to cultivate gatherings and conversations that are respectful but also robust and energized by diversity in all its forms—diversities of world view, life experience, belief, identity, ethnicity, ideology, opinion, etc.

We know that who isn’t "at the table" is often as consequential as who is. And the less diverse the  conversations, the more likely it is participants will become locked into one way of viewing or resolving an issue (and increasingly negative in their assessment of differing opinions or solutions).

When the national spokesperson for Speak Your Peace, Rob Karwath, visited Sisters in 2016, he shared an anecdote that demonstrates the importance of welcoming all people and perspectives to the table—even viewpoints held by people you might believe are to blame for an issue.    

Karwath told the true story of a small northwestern Wisconsin community—a popular lakeside recreational and nightlife destination—that was facing a significant uptick in drug and alcohol related accidents. Some citizens began angrily laying full blame on local nightclubs. Others argued those nightclubs were important to the economy. Division and deadlock on the issue ensued until the club owners were approached and were asked to participate in what would be civil, blame-free discussions. Based on that promise, the owners agreed to engage. And ultimately those same owners helped develop and lead an awareness program, along with a new community-wide transportation service, that effectively reduced accidents.

“We got a new option on the table that helped solve the problem—precisely because we got all heads in the game,” Karwath said.

We got a new option on the table that helped solve the problem—precisely because we got all heads in the game.
— Rob Karwath

In Sisters—like elsewhere—when individuals believe their opinions are unwelcome they often self-censor (as the survey suggests). They withdraw from local conversations and activities and often self-segregate into smaller silos within the community (like the bar owners could have done). This hinders possibilities for future collaborations.

In Sisters—unlike elsewhere—we can make a difference. When we encourage diversity and diverse thinking, we are better able to approach and resolve local issues together—as neighbors, co-workers and Central Oregonians. We also, then, create opportunities for unexpected collaborations that could help us better enjoy life together the rest of the time.

C4C offers free community-wide sessions to help us speak with each other more honestly and clearly (and to listen to others in the same way). Made possible by the support of generous area sponsors, these quarterly events highlight tools, strategies and perspectives proven to promote trust-building and bridge-building.

And because we believe relationships and trust are often best built around shared meals, we kick off these quarterly sessions with “Soup & Civility”—a free and casual light supper.

As we continue to work toward a community where everyone feels increasingly welcome at the table, we earnestly invite you to attend our next quarterly session. (The Nov. 15 event featured Moe Carrick speaking on: “The Paradox of Connection.” Follow-up audio of that thought-provoking evening is offered here.) Also, please consider joining us for our next Soup & Civility—a chance to simply relax, share time, connect or reconnect.

The 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey was conducted by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov, a non-partisan survey organization. The YouGov results were based on a sample of 2,300 Americans (ages 18+). Responses were collected August 15-23, 2017.