Ask yourself how much time you spend really talking with friends or acquaintances who disagree with you ideologically? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is “hardly ever.” And despite all panic about the failure of democracy, we don’t act to change that - even when there’s lots of evidence that suggests that if we’d just spend more time with each other as human beings it would actually make a difference.
Ask yourself how much time you spend really talking with friends or acquaintances who disagree with you ideologically? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is “hardly ever.” And despite all panic about the failure of democracy, we don’t act to change that — even when there’s lots of evidence that suggests that if we’d just spend more time with each other as human beings it would actually make a difference.
You’ll meet pairs of friends on opposite sides of the political division who maintain close friendships that deepen and enrich their lives anyway. Keep reading about Patricia Nelson Limerick, where our inspired title “Let Friendship Redeem the Republic” came from. You’ll meet Berny + Geston (they disagree on almost everything, except that they both love their country), Marian + Derek (a lesbian pastor and conservative Latter Day Saint who work together on the thorny issues of religious liberty and equal rights), and you’ll meet Village Square Founder & CEO Liz Joyner’s friend Dr. Jacob Hess, co-author of “You’re Not as Crazy as I thought (but you’re still wrong).” Liz and Jacob have joined forces to convince the rest of America that friendships across differences are the very best kind (see their project, below).
We read from Patricia Nelson Limerick’s New York Times column “Dining with Jeff” at our very first Village Square dinner in 2006. Nelson writes of her husband and the John Adams plea to Thomas Jefferson in their later years “…You and I ought not to die until we have explained ourselves to each other”:
I fell in love with this quotation 30 years ago, about the same time that I fell in love with Jeff Limerick, and for some of the same reasons. Honest, self-aware and articulate, Jeff made “explaining himself” into an art form, but his performance soared past his fellow mortals when it came to the tougher side of this transaction. Jeff had a genius for listening and giving people the best opportunity to explain themselves and to become his friend.
On Feb. 1, 2005, Jeff died of a stroke. Having trained with a master, I carry on with the methods I learned from him.
When I find myself puzzled and even vexed by the opinions and beliefs of other people, I invite them to have lunch. Multiple experiments have supported what we will call, in Jeff’s honor, the Limerick Hypothesis: in the bitter contests of values and political rhetoric that characterize our times, 90 percent of the uproar is noise, and 10 percent is what the scientists call “signal,” or solid, substantive information that will reward study and interpretation. If we could eliminate much of the noise, we might find that the actual, meaningful disagreements are on a scale we can manage.
Read more about the truly inspired story Jefferson and Adams left us here.
“And Then We Shall Save Our Country” is an excerpt from Lincoln’s annual address to Congress in 1862, when the country was in the grips of the Civil War. Here is more of the text:
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
We challenge our fellow citizens to rise with the occasion.