Event looks past political labels
East side conservatives and liberals invited to share stories
Park Record guest writer
Its really hard to hate each other when youve heard each others stories. Hearing the stories is humanizing, Founder of the Project for Deeper Understanding Rev. Charles Robinson said. They become a human being, not just a spokesperson for an ideology.
Robinson heard that plea for bridge building in the days and weeks after the 2016 Presidential elections. People from the community at large would come up to me and say, I dont understand why anyone would vote for [Donald Trump]. I want to understand. Can the Project for Deeper Understanding do something? Robinson said.
So in March, the group brought liberals and conservatives together for a listening exercise in Park City. First, a select panel told the audience what led them to embrace the liberal or conservative viewpoint. As with other Deeper Understanding events, others could ask questions in a respectful way, creating constructive conversations as Robinson calls them.
Doug Clyde, a Democrat who served as a planning commissioner on the predominantly Republican east side of the county, has experience working with people holding opposing opinions. Theres a whole range of views out there. Its not as black and white as people might think, he said.
He experienced this while on the East Side Planning Commission. We spent a lot of time on code revisions to accommodate and revise the usability of the Land Management Code. Its not in anybodys interest to make it difficult, he said.
Likewise, citizens can gain experience from this event. I greatly appreciate that they [Project for Deeper Understanding] are coming over here, and I appreciate their work, he said.
Cheryl Butler, chair of the Summit County Democratic Party, was one of the four panelists in March, and will return for this event. It turned out that the facilitator and moderators ensured a very safe forum where people could be very comfortable with expressing their point of view, she said.
Butler noted the similarities, more than the range of differences, in the participants. All of us had similar stories of how our various backgrounds took us to our different political viewpoints, she said.
One example revealed itself with Tal Adair, the former chair of the Summit County Republican Party. Tal and I both feel very strongly about family, she said.
Adair concurred. Other peoples philosophies arent too different from your own, he said. Everybody wants to be happy; they want to have a good live. Everybody cares about their families, their kids and friends Its just different on how they get there.
Attracting new people to the conversation meant reaching out to new people. Thats a big reason why were moving this to Kamas. We wanted to send the signal that we really want to reach out to people outside of Park City, Robinson said.
Robinson is hoping to attract an equal number of liberals and conservatives, but says they will be able to make it a productive event regardless of the attendees makeup.
Feedback from the first event also prompted organizers to add a policy question about healthcare to the second event. Participants will be asked to talk about, and listen to, personal views on healthcare and the role of government.
Introducing the concept of policy, there could be a real difference of opinion, Baker said. You want to make sure you keep that high level of conversation going.
Robinson found his own experience helpful in understanding what priorities and values other people felt strongly about. Having that more profound appreciation of people has a practical application. Youre less likely to take approaches alienating them, he said.
Conservatives & Liberals: Crossing The Divide Toward Common Ground, Part 2, takes place Tuesday, May 23, at 7 to 9 p.m. at the South Summit School District Offices in Kamas. Hosted by the Project for Deeper Understanding.
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