by Sarah Ruger
Koch Foundation's free expression
The year was fraught
to say the least
Those words of gratitude
- standing out against the backdrop of a tumultuous year - arrived
via telegram at NASA half a century ago following Apollo 8's
successful trip around the moon. But their lesson applies today.
Fortunately, it doesn't
take a trip around the moon to bridge the deepest divides - even
conversation over a cup of coffee or a meal can remind us of each
We are hardwired to
censor what's unfamiliar
In a mid-20th century experiment called "Robber's Cave," researchers brought together two demographically identical groups of boys, randomly sorted them into two groups, gave them each a few days to form bonds within their "tribes," and then kicked off a baseball competition.
The boys quickly started
generalizing about the other team and drawing distinctions that
The tendency is not unique to any one political tribe. Recent research by the Cato Institute found at least one thing the left and the right agree on.
They both want to silence
someone, they just disagree on who.
Other examples are readily available from both sides of the aisle:
Relying on intimidation to silence people goes beyond censorship. It's abhorrent.
A recent study (Exposure to Opposing Views on Social Media can increase Political Polarization) found that when individuals confront different perspectives online, the new information further entrenches their existing beliefs and increases skepticism of the opposing view.
It's also now easier than
ever to opt into what MoveOn.org board president and digital guru
Eli Pariser calls "filter bubbles" - choosing to surround
ourselves with homogenous communities and replacing diverse,
in-person interaction with digital engagement.
So what do we do
The long-term solutions
will be as complex as the humans at the root of it.
We have the opportunity
to learn from each other's differences.
The astronauts came from different backgrounds: Iranian, Russian, American, and others - individuals who have shared that they may have otherwise struggled to find common ground on Earth.
But when they broke (freeze-dried) bread together as they watched the Earth passing by, they experienced a,
It doesn't take zero gravity. Just start a conversation rooted in deep respect for each other's inherent dignity.
Be the change you want to
see in this tiny, blue dot.