Transition — Gary Leaving Group

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.



2 responses

  1. I think it’s unfortunate that Gary should leave the group he founded, and has led for
    seven years. I for one hope he will reconsider.
    I don’t see any way to restructure the group, however. The opinions expressed in it,
    depend mostly on the people who are in it.
    The only alternative might be to set up political discussions as debates. We might want to try this.
    David is right, that you cannot use Socratic methods. People’s opinions are unlikely to change, nor are they simply based upon facts.

    At the same time, I think Gary’s criticisms may be unfair. For example, when
    Wal-Mart was discussed, he seemed to feel the comments were made by people ignorant
    of business. Why then did he not present the case for Wal-Mart, if there is one?

    It may not be just to call the group a “mutual admiration society,” when those who
    might dissent simply remain silent.

  2. […] Here is that post I did on the subject we talked about last night.  So far we are not rotating moderators, as the post said we would.  I continue to do  it.  We may rotate in the future if the group wants to do so.  […]

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