Friday, March 11, 2011

Part 1: Can Progressive Roots Grow in Georgia Red Clay?

How they should address conservative leaning Georgians about Progressive Issues

This is about how people who hold progressive ideas about government, economics, or the world at large can talk to folks who don’t already share these ideas. If I have any competence to write about this, it probably comes from this: I grew up in a fairly conservative family in a small town where everyone (as far as I knew) held pretty much the same opinions, and the only diversity of opinion was between the Baptist and the Methodists.

As a deacon of a small-town, relatively conservative church in Macon Co, during this time, my own political and social convictions have moved more to the (moderately) right but I have continued to love, trust, and work with people who hold far more progressive ideas.

So here's my take on how progressives could present their case to those who are no way have anything in common with them

I find many of my progressive friends becoming increasingly frustrated as they try to talk to people who disagree (like myself) for instance. It is even more difficult for progressives if people don’t even want to think about an issue, but trust elected officials to do the right thing about the issues of the state. Other progressives don’t even try to talk to people outside of their movement for social change, because they are so convinced that everyone outside their group holds opposing viewpoints. The problem, of course, is that this isolates progressives from many of the people who they need as supporters, and who might very well become supporters if they were helped to understand the issues. Most people are not likely to have their minds changed by mass demonstrations or protests unless they can understand the reasons for the actions. This is not to discount the importance of direct actions such as vigils, protests, street theater, marches, etc.

However, such actions serve to create discussion and to demonstrate to the power-holders, the size and commitment of the people who want change. Such actions will never change the opinions of the average person on the street unless progressives can follow up the action with good discussions of the ideas and convictions that led them to the action.

Remember, most people get their news from the mass media, especially television. They will always see only the most extreme parts of any direct action, and never hear any explanation of why people are protesting. This is pretty simple: TV stations and networks and newspapers are owned by the same people and companies who own other businesses like (News Corp, GE for example). The mass media are not likely ever to be the progressives ally in telling of the need for social change or explaining any issue from a progressive viewpoint. Forget it! You progressives must be prepared to talk to people who are not part of the movement; the media are not going to do it for you.

Whom Are You Trying to Change, and Why?

Most of the progressives will be talking to their neighbors, co-workers, family members, and the occasional person who asks he/she a question during some kind of direct action. It probably is not helpful to begin to try to change the attitudes and ideas of people he/she don’t know. They can sometimes reach a larger audience through letters to the editor of our local newspapers, but that serves mainly to awaken public discussion. It is through talking to people and groups of which they are a part that they can probably change the most people. However, almost everyone who holds progressive ideas can find someone who holds different ideas. Focus on the people and groups around you. Just because people aren’t willing to walk a picket line with you, don’t assume that they don’t agree. It may be that they have very good reasons for not taking a particular action and are expressing themselves in ways that you don’t know.

Get to Know the People You are Talking To

In focusing on the people around you, the first thing to do is to listen to them, care about them, and learn about and share their concerns. If you don’t care enough about them to hear their concerns, why should they waste their time listening to yours? Almost everyone, no matter how uneducated or politically conservative, can spot a phony. If your care for them and their concerns is not genuine, they will recognize it immediately and probably reject your ideas in the process. Most people change their political and social ideas only very slowly, and only in the context of shared experiences with people whom they trust and care about. They are not going to trust and care about people who don’t trust and care about them.

Every community has its own set of special events and local groups that are an important part of that community’s life. It is often important to be a part of community center fund-raisers, church suppers, high-school athletic events, and other events. These are the events by which small town communities identify themselves. If progressives expect people to care about their special events for progressive causes, then they need to show some interest in many other such events that have no consequences for social change whatsoever. Participating in such events helps to prevent those who hold progressive ideas from being seen as too “different” or as not a participating member of the community. This is an important part of establishing trust.

Progressives also need to confront their own class-based attitudes toward those who hold more conservative ideas or are not so politically active. Those who were raised in progressive or highly educated homes need to be especially careful about the things which separate them from the people with whom they need to talk. Too often progressives assume that people who do not share their concerns, passions, and political ideas are either uneducated or ignorant. Now a progressive would probably say, if they (conservatives) were only smart enough to see things from our point of view, they would agree with it. It doesn't work that way! . They need to be careful of their class and educational biases. If they are talking to people who have less education and more limited experiences, they should not expect them to share their worldview.

The end of Part 1. Part 2 coming monday


Anonymous said...

You said it all right there. Progressives is a dirty word in these parks. The progressives have got to understand that they just can't come in & just force change on those who are not ready for it.

They have got to give good reasons & make solid arguments as to why conservatives should listen & vote for them

Unknown said...

I'm a Progressive rural Georgian. I "get it". Rural folks are pragmatists. They want to see things getting better. Nothing wrong in that. I am a realist at heart. I seek change where there is none. If people like myself start speaking up and stating our beliefs-I think we'll find there are more "progressives" in the closets of rural Georgia. Not because their values are skewed but because of rampant bullying and peer pressure to conform.
I have had ENOUGH. When Georgians are tired of suffering they will vote the Democrats back in. Mark my words. We are alive and well in rural Georgia.

This is a Rural Blog that provides views & insights from a Conservative Georgia Democrat

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