In these times of disputes, drama and bad feelings at the national political level, it can seem preferable to avoid discussing current events with family, friends and colleagues so that a blow-up does not occur.
But Sammamish activist group Plateaupians for Peace wants those conversations to occur — just in a tolerant and respectful way.
That’s the theme of the Plateaupians newest event on March 30, a civil disagreement workshop at the Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Sammamish. The Plateaupians are partnering with the Good Samaritan to host the seminar, which will educate attendees on how to have peaceful disagreements about politics.
Plateaupians co-founder Sarah Hawes Kimsey said that the workshop was necessary because “we need to learn how to listen better and to disagree” in a way that leads to finding common ground.
“Instead of moving apart, we need to move together,” added Loreen Ehlers, a Plateaupian and member of the Episcopal church.
At the event, Seattle-based speaker Dr. David E. Smith, who gives lectures on philosophy and religion, will give a 30-minute talk, after which there will be another half hour of questions, answers and group discussion.
Kimsey said finding common ground with political polar opposites had been a hot topic for Plateaupians recently.
“They’re trying to open their minds … open up to the community,” she said, adding that it will be all about “how to handle day-to-day interactions.”
Kimsey herself has had unpleasant interactions with people online who start political disagreements, but she said that she prefers to make the conversation a learning experience.
“They can say what they want, but I work hard to listen to what they say,” Kimsey said.
Plateaupians for Peace was created by Sammamish Plateau residents Kimsey, Liz Faaland and Kate Gordon on Nov. 9, the day after the contentious presidential election.
The group, which has since grown to 1,000 members, aims to use peaceful means to make progress, help the marginalized and show respect to everyone, regardless of the words and actions of government leaders. In January, the Plateaupians organized buses to take nearly 1,000 Eastside residents to the Women’s March on Seattle.
Good Samaritan joined the Plateaupians because its values line up with those of the Plateaupians, according to Father Steve Danzey, the church’s rector. He said that the greater Episcopal Church has been very vocal in campaigning for the rights of marginalized populations.
“A lot of people are frustrated, angry and mostly fearful coming out of the election,” Danzey said. However, “one positive is people are realizing the social fabric has been ripped apart … and we have the responsibility to fix it.”
Both Danzey and Kimsey agreed that people on the whole have become far less social in recent decades, describing a common scene in neighborhoods throughout America — that of neighbors driving into their garages in the evening without stopping to talk to their neighbors, then closing the door and not coming out until it is time to go to work the next morning.
“Over the last 20 to 30 years, people have become more isolated, retreated … Our goal is to push people out of their comfort zone in a positive and life-affirming way,” Kimsey said. “It’s about that greater sense of community and responsibility to one another.”
“You can’t … develop a greater sense of community … if you don’t get to know one another,” Danzey said. He believes that technology has played a role in this, noting that social media has made people more isolated.
Kimsey pointed out, however, that social media can also be used to bring people together, noting that the Plateaupians have grown to 1,000 members in four months largely thanks to the unifying power of Facebook and Twitter. She said that through the group, she has gotten to know fellow Plateau residents of all faiths, cultures and belief systems whom she never would have met otherwise.
“There’s nothing manufactured about this,” she said. “We’re all just people who came from very diverse backgrounds. That’s what makes this so powerful.”
“People of all faith or no faith — we’ve got to stand up for each other,” Danzey said. He continued, “My understanding of the Gospel and Jesus’ message is to reconcile all people to God … that means everybody. To engage the community to be a safe place, to empower people. We’re all on the same mission.”
It’s only the beginning of working together for the Plateaupians and the Samaritans. Both groups are very active in helping Syrian refugees in King County. The Plateaupians are currently collecting kitchen supplies for refugees through the end of March, and the church plans to hold dinners and cooking classes with refugees.
“It’s part of our religious calling to welcome the refugee,” Danzey said. He said that he believes if Jesus were in present-day America, he would be aiding refugees, “spending time on the streets with the poor and the vulnerable, challenging the institutions of our government to do the right thing.”
Kimsey said that while the Plateaupians organization as a whole is nonpartisan, it is not apolitical, and it intends to keep being politically active to stand up for the rights of all human beings. She called the political activism inspired by events like the Women’s March “a positive contagion.”
“Our full intention is to harness that energy and stand up for the little guy,” she said.
Danzey and his parish are in agreement.
“Twelve disciples changed the world,” he said. “This can change our community and we can change the world.”
To donate kitchen supplies to refugees, visit http://a.co/09qFXYP or bring donations to the workshop. The Good Samaritan Church is located at 1757 244th Ave. NE, Sammamish.