Conversation on Public Affairs
American democracy is endangered today by ideological polarization, negative campaigning, shameless but unchallenged mendacity, the debasement of political discourse, & the resulting alienation of millions of Americans from participation in politics & public affairs. This is especially evident in electoral abstentionism. Our presidents & most other elected public officials in recent years have been voted in by small minorities (sometimes less than 25%) of the eligible voters.
We need to learn talk with one another, & in so doing to find common ground & a common sense of purpose. That is how we can revitalize the language, & the idealism, that once characterized American politics.
As Eleanor Roosevelt put it: "Either we are going to die together, or we are going to learn to live together. And if we are going to live together, we have to talk."
Café Talk: Guru of Gab Invites Us to Start a Never-Ending Conversation. Sherry Stripling, Seattle Times (4/8/02).
On the Web: Specialized Sites
Citizen's Guide to Town Meetings (Citizen Information Service of the State of Massachusetts).
Conversation Cafés (Canada).
Film Connection. National public library for film conversation groups.
Hold a Town Meeting (Tips for Familiarizing Children with the Practice).
Truth Tree. Includes useful suggestions on debating, & how to avoid fallacious arguments.
Baker, Linda. "Everybody's talking in Seattle this week," Christian Science Monitor (3/12/03).
In the Library: Non-Fiction Books
Ellinor, L. & G. Girard. Dialogue: Rediscovering the Transforming Power of Conversation (NY: John Wiley, 1998).
Ellison, Sharon. Taking the War Out of Our Words: The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (Berkeley CA: Bay Tree, 200?).
Lakoff, George. Moral Politics: How Liberals & Conservatives Think  (Chicago: U. of Chicago, 2002).
__________. Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values & Frame the Debate (White River Junction VT: Chelsea Green, 2004).
N'Ha Sandra, J. & Editors of the Utne Reader. The Joy of Conversation: The Complete Guide to Salons (Minneapolis: Utne, 1997).
Oldenburg, R. The Great Good Place: Cafés, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Shops, Gerneral Stores, Bars, Hangouts & How They Get You Through the Day (NY: Paragon, 1989).
Spring, Cindy; Charles Garfield & Others. Wisdom Circles: A Guide to Self-Discovery & Community Building in Small Groups (NY: Hyperion, 1998).
Wheatley, Meg. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2002).
Zimmerman, H. Speaking, Listening, Understanding (Hudson NY: Lindisfarne, 1997).