Gary abruptly announced near the end of last night’s meeting that he was quitting the group immediately in favor of starting another discussion forum more to his liking. He said the group is too liberal for his tastes now (a “mutual admiration society”), and that the group makes conservatives feel unwelcome and disrespected Then he walked out.
Gary’s entitled to do whatever he wants, of course. And we owe him a debt of thanks for all his hard work over the years as club leader. I also agree that we at times have given conservatives a hard time, and need to be more respectful of people.
But I think Gary is off base. The content of political views is not “too” anything. It is what it is depending on who shows up and keeps showing up. Conflict is inevitable in a group called the “Politics and Religion” club, for that matter. I’m amazed we do as well as we do in this highly polarized time. Also, seeking a middle ground through some kind of Socratic dialogue is not really realistic, given the sharp differences between liberals and conservatives these days. Nor should it be our defined objective. Religion and politics are based in passion and emotion. As long as expressing feelings doesn’t shut others down, it should be encouraged.
Still, Gary (and Rich and other more conservative group members–who, you may have noticed, don’t come as often anymore) have a point about letting all opinions be aired respectfully. So, Civilized Conversation is going to start:
- Rotating moderators meeting-to-meeting. At each meeting’s start, a volunteer will be selected to be that evening’s moderator. Don’t volunteer if you have strong, emotionally laden opinions about that night’s topic. That goes for me, too.
- Moderators will crack down on temper flare-ups and when members gang up against someone.
I think we have a solid group of core members with excellent meetings generally. I stand by the quality of our discussions.
Leadership: I guess this means I will take over as group “leader.” This was never my intention — I was just trying to help. Since I already run the website and will not moderate most meetings, all being “in charge” will mean is that I will chair the 3-person topic selection committee and speak for the group to Filter, the media, do other publicity stuff, etc.
Losing Gary — not to mention Ken two weeks ago — is a blow. But the group will survive and keep flourishing, I’m sure. We have lost good people before. What matters is that we learn from it.