After carefully observing our newly-minted country, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in “Democracy in America” of the uniquely American habit of “forever forming associations.” Our first and strongest associations in America were with the people who shared a common geography and, amid many threats, likely a common fate: our neighbors. On this page, you’ll find different ways that you can reconnect with your fellow citizens in a revival of this most central American principle.
Today we’re also grappling with the consequences of rapidly changing technologies to a functioning democracy. While social media clearly offers a breathtaking array of new opportunities to associate with each other, we now know that an unintended consequence of the digital age is dramatically less direct contact with our neighbors – particularly the ones who don’t look like us or and who don’t agree with us politically. That’s a development with real danger to the underpinnings of democracy.
At a time when disagreement is roiling, we think there is only one choice for a people who believe in democracy – we’ve got to be intentional about gathering people together who are different and reviving our common bonds. After all, it was the most profound and world-changing insight of our Founding Fathers that a diverse people could self-govern – that we could be free, without a king to tell us what to do. Looks like we’re going to have to prove them right. Here are a few tools to do it.
The Book Club on Race a tool to help diverse people better understand each other. If you’re not sure why that’s important please see the news on any channel and in any newspaper any day of the week.
Living Room Conversations are intimate six person
conversations co-hosted by friends with different views
that create space for people to talk about significant topics and truly listen to each other.
Early legislators came to work “in the spirit of avowed misunderstanding, without the smallest wish to agree.” Jefferson’s solution? He invited diverse lawmakers to dinner and was widely credited with saving democracy. Maybe we can too?
The Asteroids Club is an approach to communicating about the civic problems that polarize – and paralyze – us. The concept grew out of the field of moral psychology, which tells us that people are more likely to find common ground when they unite to fight common threats.