An open letter to our GOP neighbors:
My wife and I are leaders in a local progressive civic engagement group in Sherwood. A few of us recently attended a May meeting of Washington County Republicans. You might be wondering, "What are progressive Democrats doing at a Republican meeting?"
Our Indivisible Revolution Sherwood (comprised originally of both liberals and disaffected Republicans from the Eisenhower era) formed after the 2016 election when it appeared that the only thing that would have mattered to us was opposing everything the new president stood for. We do, but there was also a strong underlying desire to reach across the partisan divide that enabled his election. We found inspiration in the book "Healing the Heart of Democracy" by Parker Palmer, and sought connection with those in our community that we politically had little in common with.
Our reason for going to this meeting had been to have conversations similar to the polite, friendly ones we've had with our conservative neighbors and to find common ground in our humanity as people who love our families, friends and the community we live in. We just do not believe in the fear and division that is sold to us by the cable news channels.
What we found at the meeting shocked us. We observed a group of about 25 people who saw our country through the lens of the John Birch Society, a fringe conservative, anti-government group. We also observed a group that seemed primarily motivated by a fear of losing an idyllic (and mythic) "Pleasantville" (see the movie of the same name from 1998) version of our country that never really existed; viewing liberals as reckless America-haters motivated entirely by a desire to destroy the morality of this country's youth, dumb down its electorate, eliminate its borders and sow seeds of utopian socialism. A few talking points we heard:
• Liberals are out to destroy Christianity and dumb down the population through public education (and the teaching of phonics) to create a communist/socialist country.
• LGBTQ people are morally abhorrent.
• Admiration for the Sovereign Citizens movement (rejection of most federal government statutes and forms of taxation).
• Life pre-1960s was a golden era with no transgender/gay/lesbian people and white and black people didn't see color, simply seeing people as they are.
• Worrying about United Nations Agenda 21 as a plot to deny property rights and undermine U.S. sovereignty.
• Termites create more C02 than humans and we need more CO2 to live (climate change is not a threat).
• Belief that if like-minded conservatives don't get more involved, they will have to consider taking up arms to defend the beliefs listed above.
While discouraged, we remain convinced that demonizing fellow Americans, regardless of political beliefs, cannot lead to the kind of government which can solve the multitude of problems that face us. Demonizing the government (which is, after all, a reflection of the people it represents) is thoroughly un-American and our differences are best resolved when more people of all political persuasions are participating in our democracy — from the school board to the city council on up to the state and federal level. Democracy only works when we participate, and fundamentally, we are all in this beautiful, confounding, contradictory and amazing country together.
Our question to our local Republicans is: "Do you know that this is how you are being represented?" If the answer is yes, then perhaps our efforts to find common ground are a waste of time; if not, we're ready, and willing, to have that conversation and see where it leads. Republicans, are you ready?
Patrick Briggs and Maddie Gavel-Briggs are a Sherwood residents.
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