Death happens to the best of us, and also to the worst.
We saw that again last week in Paris, and in Beirut, where hundreds of people going about the business of daily living had the bad fortune to cross paths with fanatics armed with weapons of war and hearts full of hate.
The Grim Reaper is not obliged to give a heads-up that your number’s up. There is always a chance that a marathon in Boston or a church in Charleston will be violated by twisted souls that nobody’s God would claim.
The Grim Reaper outsources only a fraction of his job to nut jobs claiming to be guided by homicidal Higher Authorities. The bulk of his business is done by Alzheimer’s and heart disease and cancer and 57 varieties of addiction.
The Grim Reaper does not respect boundaries. Surprise visits to offices and schools and family vacations are not off limits. He works his regular shift on birthdays, anniversaries, and the occasional bar mitzvah. He does not care that Americans are about to celebrate that most Leo Tolstoy of holidays, Thanksgiving, where “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
This Thanksgiving, as always, happy families count their blessings and carve the turkey, while unhappy families sharpen the long knives and use them on one another. No matter what else might be happening in the world, unhappy families can rarely resist the annual opportunity to eat, drink, and resurrect ancient grievances.
In her brilliant new book Tribal, my colleague Diane Roberts reminds us that much of the human race is hard-wired to believe that God wants bloody vengeance for last week’s defeat on the football field. We should not be surprised that there are people on every continent seeking bloody vengeance for Civil Wars, and Balkan Wars, and wars dating back to the twelve tribes of Israel.
This Thanksgiving, let’s skip the competition for Smartest Guy in the Room and Prettiest Presentation of Green Bean Casserole and focus—really focus—on learning something we didn’t know about someone who shares our holiday table. That’s as close as we can come to cheating death.
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at email@example.com
“We will not always agree—not all of us, not all of the time. But we should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated. If you have ideas, let’s hear them. I believe a greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us…
“A lot is on our shoulders. So if you ever pray, pray for each other— Republicans for Democrats, Democrats for Republicans. And I don’t mean pray for a conversion. Pray for a deeper understanding, because—when you’re up here, you see it so clearly—wherever you come from, whatever you believe, we are all in the same boat.”
The Village Square in Tallahassee hosted humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson on October 15th for a live audience taping of the nationally syndicated show The Thomas Jefferson Hour. To learn more about our program and listen to an audio of the program CLICK HERE. To look at pictures of the program CLICK HERE. The below piece by Mr. Jenkinson ran in ” Context Florida and the print edition of the Tallahassee Democrat.
As the 21st century finds its rhythm, and the 2016 presidential contest begins to take up most of our public space, it seems clear to me that we have two political parties in the United States, but they are both thoroughly Hamiltonian.We have what might be called the “greater Hamiltonian Party” and the “lesser Hamiltonian party.” The obscene dominance of money, political action committees, lobbyists, fundraisers, and unrestrained attack ads has essentially disenfranchised the vast majority of American citizens.
In a world where there is no longer any real accountability, our political discourse has spiraled down into the gutter. A citizen from Jupiter, or any rational American, forced to watch nothing but Fox and MSNBC 24 hours per day, would soon despair of the American experiment.
What is to be done?
My view is that we need a Jeffersonian party or (better yet) a Jeffersonian movement in America. Jefferson believed that a republic could not survive without a high level of civility. In his first inaugural address, after a hotly contested election, Jefferson wrote two passages that every American should stop to consider.
First he said, “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” (more…)
The communal hall in the elegantly appointed First Baptist Church in downtown Tallahassee is packed with noontime listeners this mid-September Friday. They are also lunchers, filling their plastic plates with tacos as they prepare to listen to ‘The God Squad’, five Tallahassee faith leaders perched on stools, who, as they have monthly for the last five years will talk about those places where religion, politics and societal issues bounce against each other like so many boats on a stormy sea. For this Faith.Food.Friday program, the crowd of nearly 200 people seems ready to eat it up. Today’s program (Friday, Oct. 9) is on Religious Freedom and will be held at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church. Tickets for food are $8 with reservations and $10 at the door.
Under the sweeping canopy of live oaks, the 350-feet long table, bridging two downtown blocks, was filled with trays of brownies, berries piled atop cheesecake squares and powdered snow-white desserts. Sweet tea, Southern barbecue and conversation were plentiful.
The Longest Table, Tallahassee’s first community-wide dinner party of sorts, asked nearly 500 local politicians, faith leaders, educators, agency representatives and residents from all neighborhoods and backgrounds to go beyond small talk and discuss what was most at stake in their city.
A reel of paper rolled the entire length of the table, filled with tough conversation-starters, questions like, “What’s the biggest challenge facing our community?” and the fill-in-the blank, “Race relations in our community are ___.” to spark honest dialogue.
For many attendees, the event offered an opportunity to examine how Tallahassee has evolved in the last decade.
“[Pope Francis] is operating on a different axis than the rest of us. We’re on a horizontal axis – left/right; he’s up and down. And so what he is doing is to defeat polarization in the right way by lifting hearts and uplifting souls.”
There was a time in our nation’s not too distant past when meeting with the President of the United States or even the Pope himself would be seen – without question – as an honor and a true privilege.
Yet, as I made the humbling journey to our nation’s capital to attend a meeting of both Pope Francis and President Obama, I felt somewhat uneasy and, frankly, a little worried about how this visit would be received by those in the body politic.
‘FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY’ LAUCHES NEW SEASON LINEUP WITH NEW VENUES
Local clergy join The Village Square in hosting lunch series on hot topics
(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – September 14, 2015 – This Friday, September 18, a diverse group of local clergy – affectionately known as “The God Squad” – will begin its fifth year of talking about the topics your mother warned you to never discuss in polite company: politics and religion. This season, “Faith, Food, Friday” programs will be crossing thresholds, sharing food with those outside of our usual circles, and welcoming the stranger – whether we don’t know him because of color, class or politics – as a new friend. The season will include several programs focused on racial and economic divides, and will move among new locations in order to broaden accessibility and participation.
The series began in 2011 with the hope that neighbors breaking bread together could begin to heal the civic division that has so paralyzed our nation, our states and our hometowns. Four years and many meals later, everyone is still speaking to each other. People from across the community, no matter what their background, are invited to participate in these improbable conversations “for people of faith and no faith at all.”
“The God Squad” includes Dr. Bill Shiell of First Baptist Church, Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel, Pastor Darrick McGhee of Bible Based Church, Rev. Betsy Ouellette-Zierden of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, and Fr. Tim Holeda, Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. The series is hosted by local nonprofit The Village Square, dedicated to building community across the partisan divide in order to improve the quality of the civic conversation in America. Organized in Tallahassee in 2006, The Village Square is expanding nationwide with locations in Fort Lauderdale; Sacramento, CA; and Salt Lake City, UT.
The first program this season is titled “Food, Food, Food” and will be held on Friday, September 18 from noon to 1 pm at First Baptist Church (108 W. College Avenue) with lunch available beginning at 11:30. Rev. Betsy Ouellette-Zierden of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church will moderate. From the American South to the Middle East to the African plains, in all cultures, hospitality around food is a central principle of civil society. And at The Village Square, food is considered one of the most essential elements to the effort to seek reconciliation across the partisan divide.
Other topics this season include Religious Liberty; Income Disparity, Poverty, Race and Our Children; The Hidden Wound; Police and Community; Rights of Passage: Raising our Children; and An Inconvenient Truth: End of Life Issues. The April 2016 program is currently a Wild Card, with the public invited to submit topic ideas. The location and lunch menu vary for each program and are posted online.
All Faith, Food, Friday forums are free and open to the public. Lunch is available for $8 for those who RSVP by the Tuesday ahead of the program and $10 with a late reservation or at the door. All lunches are paid cash or check at the door. Guests may also bring their own lunch. For menus, more information or to reserve your seat, go online to wiki.tothevillagesquare.org/x/BwGvAQ, call 590-6646 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s a little preview of Part 2 of a smart piece written by the Director of our newest Salt Lake City Village Square, Jacob Hess (find Part 1 here):
So why would anyone be crazy enough to spend significant time with someone on the other side of the political fence? Why funny you should ask…
1. To Hear it from the Horse’s Mouth. While some people seem increasingly satisfied with a daily download about what-those-dumb-people-are-up-to-now, others are hungry for something more.
“When my like-minded friends all share the same talking points,” our colleague Debilyn Molineaux writes, “I start wondering if there isn’t more to the story…”
Is there? Well, there’s one sure-fire way to find out.
2. To (Really) Be Heard Yourself. In addition to deeply hearing out your political opposite, it’s also surprisingly refreshing to have someone do that for you too – especially one of ‘those people.’ This starts, ironically, by making a shared commitment to seeking to understand each other as the first priority.
The Director of our newest Salt Lake City Village Square Director, Jacob Hess, has written a smart and thoughtful piece posted at the Huffington Post. Here’s a sneak peak:
In discussions of political polarization in America, it’s often widely assumed that ‘most Americans’ want to see the hostility change.
Do they? On the one hand, a 2013 American survey found 70% of respondents believing that incivility had reached crisis proportions in the country.
On the other hand, when these same Americans are offered a chance of hearing out their own political opposite in a generous and productive setting, we have observed a striking level of resistance.
One woman told us just yesterday, “I cannot even begin to imagine trying something like that…” Another person insisted, “Most people don’t want to sit and have a real conversation with their political opposite…They just don’t!”
Could that be true? That even though (most of us) are worried about political tensions, for different reasons (most of us) don’t feel able or willing or interested in doing anything about it?
As we work toward launching our 9th season at the Village Square in Tallahassee, we’re recapping this summer’s cool news (that happened while we were – uh – fishing). Here’s some of it:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2015
Jon D. Brown, Director
Community and Media Relations
Leon County Recognized as Model Local Government with Eleven National Awards
Recently, Leon County Government received eleven national awards recognizing outstanding county programs and services. In addition, one of these awards was designated “Best in Category” as the most outstanding program nationwide in its award category. The National Association of Counties (NACo) presented Achievement Awards to Leon County in categories ranging from Civic Education to Information Technology. NACo’s awards recognize how Leon County provides the most cost-effective, high-quality service to citizens.
“We are so proud to see our Leon County local services and programs recognized as national benchmarks for effectiveness and innovation,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Mary Ann Lindley.
This year, the following Leon County Government programs and services received awards:
9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, winning best of category in Volunteer,
Community Legislative Dialogue in the category of Civic Education and Public Information,
Domi Station, Leon County’s Startup Business Incubator in the category of Community and Economic Development,
Leon LEADS: ‘People Focused. Performance Driven.’ in the category of County Administration and Management,
Penny Sales Tax Public Education Effort in the category of County Administration and Management,
Leon County Sustainable Communities Summit in the category of County Resilience: Infrastructure, Energy & Sustainability,
Leon County Veterans Resource Center in the category of Employment and Training for County Residents,
Procurement Connect in the category of Financial Management,
Trailahassee.com in the category of Information Technology, and
Leon County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Policy in the category of Personnel Management, Employee Training and Employee Benefits.
“These national awards reflect the effort and commitment of talented and dedicated County employees who actively engage our citizens on the most important challenges and opportunities facing our community,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long.
One award that stood out recognized Leon County’s 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, which received highest honors as Best in Category. Through this annual program, Leon County encourages citizens to remember and honor the sacrifices of 9/11 by volunteering locally and giving back to the community. Since the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the program has consisted of a remembrance ceremony and day of service. Over the past four years, 976 volunteers have contributed over 4,400 hours of volunteer service to veterans, low-income seniors, disabled individuals and families of active-duty military personnel in the Leon County community through service projects ranging from creating “garden buckets” for growing vegetables at home to housing rehabilitation for disabled veterans.
Many of the NACo awards highlight programs, services and initiatives that have been in place for years. Such awards recognize how Leon County Government listens to citizens’ needs, anticipates challenges and engages citizens to collaboratively shape the community for future generations. One such example was the multi-year penny sales tax education effort that involved hundreds of hours of citizen input to determine infrastructure projects that County residents not only need, but want. Moreover, Leon County was nationally recognized for programs such as the Sustainable Communities Summit, Community Legislative Dialogue and the Veterans Resource Center, all of which are programs or initiatives that engage many different County departments and divisions to succeed.
These national awards recognize not only effective services, but highlight the successes of Leon County Government during the slow economic recovery. Since the Great Recession, the County has managed to reduce its budget while at the same time exceeding expectations with key infrastructure projects and citizen engagement. Leon County remains committed to strengthening what works, abandoning what does not, receiving citizen feedback, leveraging partnerships and listening to changing needs.
Founded in 1970, the annual NACo Achievement Award Program is an award series that recognizes innovative county government programs that increase services to county residents. Leon County will be recognized at NACo’s 80th Annual Conference in July in Charlotte, North Carolina.
For more information, contact Shington Lamy, Assistant to the County Administrator, at (850) 606-5300 / LamyS@LeonCountyFL.gov or Jon D. Brown, Director of Leon County Community and Media Relations, at (850) 606-5300 / cmr@LeonCountyFL.gov .