Newsletter #36

Newsletter # 36— October 30, 2020

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Conflicts over COVID-19, systemic racism, the U.S. election, and many other issues are driving political escalation and polarization to new and dangerous heights.  What can be done about it? And what IS being done about it now?



Taking Stock and Looking Ahead

When we started the Constructive Conflict Initiative in June of 2019, American politics was very polarized and the conflict between the right and the left was intense.  The result was growing levels of distrust and hate among our populace and governmental gridlock and inaction in Washington.  But we did not see many of our colleagues engaging in these issues at that time--most seemed still to be focusing their peacebuilding efforts abroad, and their routine conflict resolution efforts: divorce mediation, business mediation and arbitration, etc. Some were engaged in advocacy, particularly anti-racism advocacy after George Floyd's killing. But not very many were trying to build peace between the Left and the Right in the United States.  We are heartened to see that that has changed.

As the political conflicts around the U.S. Presidential election have grown more intense, with overt threats and actions to disrupt the election process, an increasing number of peacebuilding and conflict resolution people and organizations have begun to take actions and start initiatives to try to address these growing threats to American democracy and overall societal well-being.  We want to call attention to a number of these initiatives here.  Happily, there are many more that we don't have space to highlight; and many more, probably, that we don't know about.  If you are pursuing such efforts and don't find yourself or your organization already listed in our Colleague Activities Blog,* please send us a link to your webpage or otherwise write us and tell us about your efforts!  We want to highlight our colleagues' efforts and make the broader community aware that much can and is now being done to reverse our highly-escalated conflicts. 

We are also currently working on a major reorganization of the Beyond Intractability home page, to focus more explicitly on ways of transforming and de-escalating intractable conflicts, particularly (but not solely) the U.S. political conflict. We are also anxiously waiting to see what happens next week, before we decide how to move forward with the Constructive Conflict Initiative.  We have no doubt the Initiative will still be needed, but the events of next week (and the coming months) will illustrate where we should focus our attention.  We'll discuss our thoughts in the next newsletter.  In the meantime, though, please check out these excellent projects, and a selection of our posts from the last few weeks.

Election 2020: Moving Forward Together - from Living Room Conversations

Living Room Conversations is hosting a special two-week event to connect, heal and unite.  It is a "two-week series of election-focused conversations for people to come together and share hopes and concerns, to process grief and anxiety, and to relate and build understanding even across political differences."  The "kick-off" conversation was recorded and can be watched any time.  It featured Marianne Williamson, Democratic author and activist, Grover Norquist, Republican president of Americans for Tax Reform, John Wood Jr., national leader for Braver Angels & former Vice-Chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, Amanda Kathryn Roman, Co-Founder: Stakeholders & Strategy, Justine Lee, co-creator of Make America Dinner Again & Tea with the People, and Reverend Pedro Silva, Associate Minister with the First Congregational Church UCC – Boulder.

This conversation event models what conversations in any community around the election could look like and the project webpage urges viewers to both join and host other such conversations.

The TRUST Network: Creating Connections Across Communities

Mediators Beyond Borders has launched the TRUST Network, a "A broad network/platform designed to prevent violent conflict before, during and after the U.S. 2020 elections.  The project's homepage asserts: 

Americans are used to thinking that widespread violence on the streets happens somewhere else. But our situation is tense in ways that conflict analysts and observers find truly alarming. The time to build community cohesion is now, and this need will continue into the future.

Fortunately, the fundamental impulse and resiliencies are there to be built upon: people across the entire spectrum want to move forward without causing each other bodily harm. Disagreement is inevitable and often it is even healthy, but violence is neither; let us live to continue our debates.

The TRUST Network’s goal is to prevent and mitigate violence stimulated by underlying social issues – before the 2020 elections, during the vote, and in the aftermath, as we rebuild our unity. While the conditions are alarming in the lead up to the elections, it is also abundantly clear that no matter who wins, the need for community cohesion has never been greater.

In order to identify and de-escalate threats or instances of violence as they arise, we are building an Early Warning Early Response mechanism developed specifically for the United States

Key to this effort is the participation of American local peacebuilding organizations and individuals who know their communities from the inside. 

The Alliance for Peacebuilding's U.S. Peacebuilding Working Group

Historically, the Alliance for Peacebuilding has focused its efforts on conflicts outside the United States.  About a year ago (as I remember, it might be more), AfP began a working group to examine how such activities could be undertaken at home.  In their words:

Today, the United States faces not only a crisis of democracy but the continuation of racial, ethnic and class tensions that threaten peace and stability. Peacebuilding efforts within the United States are necessary now more than ever as we continue to fight against the weakening of institutions and against tensions within our communities.

The purpose of the U.S. Peacebuilding Working Group is to develop and advocate for concrete policies and programs to address worsening conflict dynamics and build sustainable peace in the US.

The working group webpage has an extensive list of books, films, and other media discussing how Americans might pursue peace at home.

Search For Common Ground's United States Projects

Search is another organization that has been primarily focused on peacebuilding outside the United States, but they have worked a bit over the years in the U.S. and now have five different U.S.-based projects  These include

  • The Millennial Action Project, which is the first national organization dedicated to overcoming America's partisan gridlock through next generation leadership.
  • The Congressional Leadership Projects which are leading conversations with Congressional representatives and their constituencies about race and democracy.  Another effort is convening small groups of Congress Members and staff people to discuss jobs, the economy, immigration, and voting participation.
  • Rights of the LGBT Community - an effort to support the creation and adoption of common ground legislation that upholds the rights of the LGBT community while simultaneously protecting religious liberties. 
  • One Neighborhood - This project brings "people in D.C. together to address our collective problems and end destructive conflict. To do this, we’re promoting dialogue between incoming and native Washington, D.C., residents in order to transform divided neighborhoods into “one neighborhood” with residents working together toward collective goals."
  • The Commons - This project provides a space for community leaders who are working on racial equity and healing to come together to candidly and respectfully talk to each other. Ongoing dialogue groups have been formed in D.C. and Oakland, California.

The Bridge Alliance

The Bridge Alliance is a coalition of about 100 organizations which are working together as "active stewards of our democratic republic."  Member organizations span the ideological spectrum, but all are committed to working across political divides in the United States to solve common problems. Members' work tends to involve civic engagement efforts, projects intended to make the American electoral system fair and accessible, and improving governance and policymaking at all levels of government in the U.S. 

The Alliance has created a particularly valuable "Crisis Recovery Guide" that lists featured and regularly-updated resources, events, and advocacy information on 1) Systemic inequality, 2) Legislation and Government, 3) Civic Participation, 4) Voting, 5) Family and Community. 6) Youth and Education, 7) Disinformation, and  8) Economy, work, and Finances.

A second project, The Fulcrum contains extensive news, opinion, commentary and fact-checking on political issues and election processes in the U.S. 

Exploring these resources, along with the Bridge Alliance's Blog and Newsletter illustrates that a great deal of effort is being put into saving and improving American democracy.  There still are enormous challenges ahead, and many, many more people are needed to work on these efforts.  But we have a good start.  Now we all need to cross our fingers (a U.S. idiom for wishing for good luck), and hope we get through the next week and month(s) without a major backslide!

Other Recent Posts include:

From the CCI Blog:

From the Conflict Fundamentals Seminar and the BI Knowledge Base: 

  • Polarization -- Polarization is insidious and dangerous. Steps should be taken to avoid it when possible, and reverse it when it has already developed. -- 9/21/2020
  • The Meaning of Civility -- Before civility can provide an alternative to today's hyper-partisan dysfunction, we need a clear image of what civility is and isn't. -- 10/1/2020 
  • Into-the-Sea Framing -- At the moment, it seems like most everyone is wishing that the other side would somehow just disappear. That's not a solution.--9/30/2020
  • Humiliation -- Providing face saving opportunities makes it much easier for people to admit their mistakes. Humiliating them makes it almost impossible.  -- 10/29/2020 
  • Ethos of Conflict -- Since the conflict ethos feeds continuation of the conflict, that needs to change for conflicts to be resolved. -- Oct 22

From the Conflict Frontiers Seminar: 

From the Things YOU Can Do To Help Blog:

  • Don't Take the "Hate Bait" -- We are facing a deliberate effort to make us hate one another to the point where democratic governance is no longer possible. We can't let it succeed. -- 10/6/2020 

From the Colleague Activities Blog:

  • Millions of Conversations -- Reaching across the U.S. to disrupt cycles of hate, combat misinformation, and challenge harmful stereotypes across all divides.-- Oct 29
  • The Aftermath Project -- An organization that explores what needs to happen after a conflict to allow people to learn to live together again and restore their civil society.  Oct 20

From the Beyond Intractability in Context Blog

  • Five Great Things Biden Has Already Done -- The most hopeful (and realistic) article that I have read about prospects for getting beyond the United States' destructive hyper-polarization.t -- Oct 29
  • Don’t Give Up on America -- For a time when everyone seems focused on all the things that are wrong with America, a plea for celebrating and strengthening the good things. -- Oct 23

All CC-MOOS Posts


About the MBI Newsletters

Every few weeks, we will compile BI/MBI/CCI news, along with selected the new posts from our various seminars and blogs into a Newsletter that will be posted here and sent out by email to subscribers. You can sign up to receive your copy on our Newsletter Sign Up Page and find the latest newsletter here on our Newsletter page. Past newsletters can be found in the Newsletter Archive. 

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