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"By the People" recap: a little summary, and I almost lose it

The deal is the The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, a PBS show, organized a kind of citizens' assembly in Colonial Williamsburg.

They did a really good job getting a lot of different kinds of people, folks I would never have the chance to meet and talk things over. I spent a fair amount of time talking about shared values with an imam and a coupla ministers from different groups. For example, I learned that it's not so much an excess of stuff is problematic, it's the abuse of materialism is considered questionable, that is, when someone values material possessions over human values.

After subgroups met, they got together to present some conclusions, with remarkable consensus. For example, people felt that there needed to be a much better balance of personal responsbility and the free market versus governmental action. My take on the subject is that shared values include the notions that we should all give the other person a break, and that the market usually does a good job of that. However, there are times when the market fails, like in health care, and that's when public action, via government, is required. On the other hand, whenever you concentrate money and power, you get people capable of doing a "heckuva job", people who are basically screwups and/or crooks.

The core events of this convocation were at the original Virginia House of Burgesses, which is pretty much where the Bill of Rights was written. For those of you old enough to remember it, the Bill is what used to guarantee some basic rights, until rule of law was overturned recently in this country.

The guys who passed this stuff risked their necks, literally, and that led me to mention the blogger from Myanmar, Dawn, whose disappearance I documented earlier in this blog. A few folks noticed that I got emotional, and also referred to the House as sacred space, which I believe deeply but rarely mention this kind of thing.

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10 Responses to "By the People" recap: a little summary, and I almost lose it

Dan Werner says:

I was involved with the planning of the By the People event at Colonial Williamsburg and want to underscore two points implicit in Craig's blog. It was absolutely great that he and the other participants — each with busy personal and professional schedules — were willing to spend three days (not counting the hassles of travel) to engage in a democratic dialogue with strangers.
I think Craig's willlingness to engage is shared by others, who regardless of political perspective, are willing and eager to join a substantive conversation about where we are going as a nation that goes beyond the horse-race nature of our political life. And, as Craig mentioned, the Williamsburg weekend stood in sharp contrast to the unfortunate fact that the civic conversation of most Americans is limited to like-minded others who tend to share backgrounds and perceptions.
Craig's comments , the fact he participated in the Williamsburg dialogue and then shared his experience through this blog, underscores his recognition that citizenship is more than a spectator sport. Craig leads by example and sets out a challenge for the rest of us.

Ellen says:

Civic dialog is what is mostly missing in today's politics, whether in the small group like your nieghborhood, or in the larger group of City, State, and Federal Civil Servants.
We have come to a time when extreme responses to anything that isn't just like the way we would do it, is demanded. If we aren't outraged by something different, people think there is something wrong with you.
The fact is, a Civil Society is not built on outrage. It's built with tolerance, and even well wishing of others with different viewpoints and lifestyles. short of individuals actually getting hurt, we should be celebrating the differences between us. It's what makes life interesting.
Too often, people believe that to allow another view point somehow makes their viewpoint less viable. Since they don't have enough personal self-confidence to stand secure in their viewpoint, they insist that everyone around them share their viewpoint, or else.
The "or Else" is generally to become very noisy and obnoxious, inviting others to pile on in the classic dog pile scenario, in order to break down the evil doer who happens to have a slightly different approach to living.
Case in point, those people who live in Communities with Associations attached all do quite well when there is a rational, tolerant individual working as President. Any one who has ever lived in a community with an intolerant, everyone Must do everything my way or else, human being having the greater influence, understands that they are no longer living in a Civil Society. Suddenly, they are living in a Dictatorship, run by intolerant, uncivil, obnoxious, so-called, Do-gooders.
If we are to ever hope to have a Civil Society as a Nation, we need to start by being Civil at home.

Richard Reiss says:

Craig, I also found this section in your post moving –
"The guys who passed this stuff risked their necks, literally, and that led me to mention the blogger from Myanmar, Dawn, whose disappearance I documented earlier in this blog. A few folks noticed that I got emotional, and also referred to the House as sacred space, which I believe deeply but rarely mention this kind of thing."
I agree with what you are saying, and I may not have even known how much I agree until recently, when I started reading "The Federalist" (by Hamilton and Madison). Somehow I missed it in school, and it blows me away. It contains amazing writing and thinking, which remain fresh. They weren't idealists; they meant to build a system that would last, so they weren't afraid to be honest. And they do it without patronizing the intelligence of the reader, yet it was written for the public. I feel like people are maybe a bit more open to that kind of honesty now. Under the right circumstances.

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