The other day I poked some double fun at the upcoming happy hour "hosted" by MN Publius and MDE.
As someone who founded his blog on the premise of figuring out how people who disagree can still build a decent world, I owe the organizers an explanation of why I look on this opportunity with little excitement.
Yes, I know there are differences between this happy hour and meeting of heads of state, but the question is still pertinent. Why would I or any progressive attend a branded event that seems calculated to create a veneer of bipartisanship for perhaps the most partisan attack blog in the state?
Mitch Berg makes one pass at a reason, reminiscing about a happy hour of yore:
[I]t was just a tiny bit harder to flame on people that I’d met in person. That I’d actually met as humans, rather than as mere brain-damaged big-government-coddling tax-and-spend liberal drones. And a few of them wrote as well, saying they could maybe be a little more tolerant of uncaring, selfish conservatives now that they’d actually met some of us — something they didn’t do much of in real life.
It made an impression.
Oh, it only lasted so long, of course.
And his commenters swoop in to prove the point.
I do agree that such face-to-face contact can encourage civility, but I don't need to bike to St. Paul for a beer to learn its virtues. And I have no interest at all in fake civility that does nothing more than help Michael Brodkorb go back next week and slag more Democrats with more utter B.S.
Real community and real civility — civitas — come about when antagonists find something important they truly want in common. Something they cannot have without respecting the other's perspective, values and rights.
Jonathan Thompson, of High Country News, edits a publication that attempts to bring an environmental audience face-to-face with the complex realities of the American West. They write about inevitable collisions involving die-hard opponents. In the process, they have learned a thing or two about how people who've fought bitterly for years can move on to something better.
The magazine's current issue has a story about how native tribes and farmers along the Klamath River had one fundamental thing in common:
They rely on the river for their food and their livelihoods. While those needs have competed with one another in the past, they are also what kept these guys at the bargaining table until an agreement came together.
It wasn’t easy. Before the farmers and tribes could hold hands, they both had to endure a lot of pain — massive fish kills, dried-up fields and the tedium of the negotiations themselves.
Perhaps that’s the lesson here: Unlikely alliances don’t happen by magic, they take work. Sometimes the situation needs to become so dire that the two sides have no other choice but to get along. Then they can find a bit of common ground, and their reverence for and reliance upon the land will finally win out over age-old animosities. And then they will discover that their alliance was never that unlikely after all.
I'm conflicted about attending. What do you think?