Demonizing the other: An easy “trap” to fall into

I’m in Washington through Jan. 21, serving as a faculty leader for The Washington Center’s 2017 Inauguration Seminar. It’s a fascinating faculty development opportunity for my colleagues and me.

My role is a different this year; I’m supervising three interns, and collectively we are documenting the seminar through stories, photos, videos and more.

Here’s my most recent blog post that first appeared on TWC’s website. The story summarizes a presentation delivered by Talking Eyes Media executive director Julie Winokur.

Documentary producer Julie Winokur discusses her film "Bring It to the Table" with students at The Washington Center's 2017 Inauguration Seminar. Photo courtesy TWC

Documentary producer Julie Winokur discusses her film “Bring It to the Table” with students at The Washington Center’s 2017 Inauguration Seminar. Photo courtesy TWC

This might be the most interesting excerpt:

Winokur contends that attempts at political conversation break down for too many Americans because they forget a simple premise: “We enter from different doorways, but we want to talk from each other as if we entered through the same doorway,” she said.

As a result, Americans are quick to fall into the trap of demonizing the other, she added. The corrosive effect is that a kind of purity test eventually develops in which “we are forced to be all or nothing,” according to Winokur, as Americans seek to remain within the group of people who believe as they do.

That purity theme came up again earlier today. Faculty director Julia Azari challenged the students to remember that civil discourse — both within and outside the major political parties — cannot happen until we “chip away” at the notion that complete agreement with someone else is needed before any political conversations can be had.

I’ll be interested to read and hear what the participating students think about this notion of civil discourse over the next two weeks.

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