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How To Reach Across The Aisle While You Reach For The Turkey

Mark Surman via flickr

After a bitter and divisive presidential election, many are approaching Thanksgiving with trepidation, even hoping to avoid politics entirely. WFSU gets some advice on how to find common ground.

For many, Thanksgiving means traveling to be with friends and family from different parts of the country, and maybe different ends of the political spectrum. At a time when many liberals and conservatives don’t know or like each other, sitting down at a diverse table is a rare opportunity to understand different viewpoints. Liz Joyner leads the Village Square, a non-profit that tries to foster civil conversation and political engagement. And she says people should treat politics like they treat the folks around their Thanksgiving table.

“No matter how nuts you think Great Uncle Harry is, he’s still your guy, you know? And I think that’s usually what happens when people know each other, because we know more than just a two dimensional characterization of each other. We know the complexity of each other’s lives,” Joyner said.

Joyner believes a strong democracy is built on a diversity of opinions. And she calls the task of rebuilding civil discourse and shared respect both impossible and mandatory.

“Our founding fathers wanted us to engage with each other as a way to protect the democracy. Otherwise you need a king. And if we’re going to do it without a king, we’re going to have to do it with each other,” she said.

Joyner says national issues will not improve until families, friends and neighbors value each other’s political differences.

"If we really do dive in to being engaged with a very broad group of our neighbors who disagree completely on the issues that are right in front of us, that are the ones that we decide about. And if you can multiply that by hundreds of communities across America, it really will be different," she said.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.