Reflections on Purple

The following is a reaction to this video:

This was an assignment for a course I am participating in. I am sharing in entirety, as submitted. I think the video is something I’d like my community to see and consider. I hope you find it useful and interesting.

By the end of the video, I completely agreed with the closing comments of the participants. It was refreshing to see people of different viewpoints having an honest dialogue about their difference, and the root of their beliefs. Beneath the surface, however, I felt a lot of internal tension. It took me a solid 5 minutes of just sitting in reflection and quiet to dig out that tension and really look at it honestly. What I discovered was that I didn’t believe this video. Not in the sense that I thought these were actors or it was dishonestly edited. I didn’t believe it because it matched the fairy tale that I grew up with about political difference. It was a fairy tale I embraced for so long. People are good. People want to help. People want to understand. People just need to communicate, and everything will work out. I lost that myth a long time ago. I didn’t believe this was a workable model for really breaking down silos and building trust across political, religious, and ethical differences.

            Do I think it’s possible for people of different viewpoints to intelligently discuss them, and come to, if not consensus, at least acceptance of differences. Absolutely, I think it is possible. A lifetime of experience, however, has taught me that RELYING on this possibility is akin to buying an empathy lottery ticket. If it pays out for you, that’s incredible, and I’m so happy for that success. Meanwhile, however, the real work, the important work, the crucial work, is carving out your own space in society. The hard, but critical, challenge is defining your own boundaries, and defending those boundaries against people who do not want to understand. I can’t even achieve this goal alone. I have to seek out allies, and kindred people, also willing to stand with me to hold my emotional and intellectual space against assault. To deserve, and hold these allies, I need to show up on their walls, and be ready to hold off people opposed to their happiness, to their peace, and sometimes even their existence. If I let myself abandon these allies to bring in the viewpoints of people who want to tear down this space I’m creating with friends, then I’m betraying a trust.

            Bringing this admittedly non-trusting and unforgiving viewpoint away from the broad spectrum of ‘politics’ or even the stand-in for this video, the social safety net, out to the topic of this course, Sexual and Gender belonging, I can at least process the usefulness of the tools displayed in this video. First, a safe environment had to be created. Everyone needed to be pulled out of their seat of power, and brought to a neutral place (a barn in this case). Second, skilled moderators needed to carefully explain and enforce standards of conduct and expectations of tolerance and engagement. Finally, personal relationships had to be started between the participants BEFORE the contentious talking started. With these safety bumpers in place, a carefully selected group was able to have an honest dialogue at least.

            The question I come away with, is how that dialogue can be applied to real problems. Will this dialogue with non-likeminded strangers protect my friends from random abuse on the street? Will this dialogue block laws that restrain their expression of love and happiness in the manner that suits them, and with the people they choose to express that with? I don’t have the answer to that question yet. Maybe future videos or discussion will help me with that. I look forward to finding out.