Hopefully this workshop can open the better angels of our nature

Forrest Johnson

In these times the National Union of Friendly Americans (NUFA) is constantly striving to be friendly, courteous and helpful, even in the face of adversity.
“Kill them with kindness” is one of our mottos, as is “Moderate your intake so the results aren’t disastrous” and “Never mix your rum with root beer.”
We’ve got lots of mottos.

I see that an upcoming workshop is being held by a group known as The Better Angels and their aim is to provide skills for people of different opinions so we can better get along and have constructive dialogue in these contentious times.
NUFA is all for that.
According to what I read in the newspaper The Better Angels is a grassroots non-profit national organization trying to reduce polarization between political parties. They have based the name The Better Angels after a well-known quote from Abraham Lincoln.

“We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as they surely will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Old Abe sure knew how to put the words together.
The skill building workshop will be held next Monday, Feb. 10, 6-9 p.m. at Ordean Middle School in Duluth. Cost is $5 and registration is required through isd709.org/community/community-education.
I’m hoping to attend and I fully know that I’m bringing plenty of baggage to unpack. By now you all know that I have my opinions and they aren’t what you’d call conservative by any means. 

Yes, I’m a lefty.
I’ve been trying on a daily basis to unravel all the propaganda and misinformation, not to mention the outright lies, paraded before us by certain politicians, media organizations, dark money donors, and regular citizens who’ve fallen for the propaganda over past number of decades. Yes, folks, there has been a real attack on truth for quite some time. Trying to open up with people who’ve been schmoozed by all that rotten information has been difficult. I’ve run into lots of walls that I can’t seem to climb over so I can have a real frank discussion with fellow citizens with an opposing viewpoint without it dissolving into hand wringing when I realize people aren’t listening.

Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve been to plenty of Tea Party rallies, a Rumpt rally, deer shacks and copper-nickel public hearings where I really try to be nice and friendly and listen and hope to be listened to. That doesn’t happen very often and in these times, not at all.

I figure you still have to try.
The Better Angels workshop might be coming at just the right time. And believe me, I’m bringing plenty of baggage to unpack.
As a journalist I have documented the years of right wing propaganda that’s been polluting the social and political atmosphere. The methodology has been simple. Repeat the talking points laden with anger, loss and contempt. Repeat again and again that freedoms are being stolen, that America’s culture and religion are being hijacked. Over and over and over. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Unions are bad. Secularists are everywhere. Socialists want to take away your country. Climate change is a hoax.

I remember a good example that millions of people bought into on a daily basis. Good old Glenn Beck had his show on Fox News for years and for quite some while he’d stand in front of a whiteboard with a hypothesis written on it and he would follow with a pointer through all his suppositions and end up at a convincing conclusion on the bottom of the whiteboard that usually claimed the left was nefarious and scheming to turn us into a socialist state.

During this particular episode Beck’s hypothesis began with Obama and we ended up after all sorts of amazing logic at Stalin. Obama was leading us to Stalin. Boom.
I was watching this with my dad and brother. My brother said, “Oh, this ought to be good.”

Upon listening, dad, ever the skeptic, said the logic was flawed, that there was no evidence of reason and truth to be found. It was a flawed argument and false.
That’s the point, I said. 
What’s the point, dad said.

To make a false argument that millions of people will believe, I said.
Who would believe such a false argument, dad said.
Millions of people, that’s who, I said.
How could people believe such nonsense, he said.
You tell me, I said.

Yes, I will be bringing lots of baggage to unpack to the Better Angels workshop. But I will listen carefully to see how I can get over that wall so I can listen and be listened to.
I’ll be plenty friendly, too.