Let’s Start a Civil Bites Movement

Posted on October 12, 2011

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In recent weeks we’ve witnessed the backlash—perhaps more appropriately stated, the whiplash—from the Tea Party Movement, this time in the form of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  While positioned at the very tips of opposite poles in their political philosophies, the often ultra-conservative Tea Partiers and frequently radical Occupiers rant from the same frustration: things just are not working the way they are supposed to.

Congress is broken, the White House is broken, the economy is broken, the rich aren’t paying enough taxes or the poor should let tax breaks trickle down to them from the wealthy. Banks aren’t lending money, illegals aren’t respecting our system and no one has a workable plan because we’re too divided to approve one.

Whatever the leaning, the emotion is one of pure frustration and anger at the way things are vs. the way they always were and the American Dream of how they should be. Not for the first time, by the way.  From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, the counterculture manifested by Vietnam protests on college campuses and in city streets, the Civil Rights protests occurring simultaneously, the Women’s Rights Movement, and reactions to the total breakdown of the Executive Branch over the Watergate scandal arose from much more troubling wrongs than those that confront us today, and they resulted in deaths and injustices all across the country.

We are still righting our nation’s wrongs from the ‘60s, and we may be attempting to correct America’s current failures for decades to come, as well. Professional communicators have a crucial role to play in this process of helping us fix our country, our systems and our attitudes toward each other.  We might serve the nation’s cause best by organizing our own movement—call it the Say Something Useful campaign or the Civil Bites Movement.  Whatever we name it, our goals should be to:

  • Help all parties find common ground, instead of drawing lines in the sand.
  • Introduce a no-fault policy for political campaigns—stop blaming everyone else and put forth programs designed to move us all forward, rather than separate us farther.
  • Understand that everyone has his or her priorities, but those should not get in the way of civil debate over measures for the common good.
  • Instead of balancing news by finding adherents from the far ends of the seesaw, balance it by offering the opinions and plans of those who sit near the center on both sides of today’s issues.  Finding consensus is a lot easier when we start out closer to each other instead of needing to travel the full length of the spectrum to meet in the middle.

An idealistic set of objectives? Far less idealistic than those who currently are demanding policy changes on the right and the left, I’d argue.  If we converse more and holler less, we may actually put ourselves in a position to listen—and that’s where innovative solutions begin.

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