Guest column by Kate Burke
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” – Thomas Jefferson
Over the course of this election cycle I noticed a disturbing trend, a chasm deepening across the nation and in our city. This wasn’t the usual red/ blue or right/left bickering we often see between parties. As a community we were spending more time arguing over our political differences and less time developing sound policy-based solutions. Communication is a key component in cultivating strong relationships and effective policy. Problems are best resolved by building bridges, not walls. Failing to look past initial differences reduces our ability to resolve shared concerns, weakens communication skills, and breeds animosity between community members.
Fortunately, I had friends across the political spectrum who shared these concerns. They were also becoming distressed by the nationwide inability to engage in civil discourse that plagued our community. Together, we discussed ways we could develop and promote a culture of respect and constructive dialogue. We were committed to fostering an environment where disagreement was not feared, but appreciated and welcomed — because it was clear that we all have Spokane’s best interest in mind. Simply having a different vision shouldn’t disqualify you from the conversation. As a group, we wanted to build a culture of inclusivity.
After some discussion we all came into agreement that the best way to accomplish this goal was by simply bringing people together. We held our first event in early Fall for those interested in politics on any level. Folks with a wide range of ideas stopped by. Berniecrats laughed with Reagan Republicans. A couple of candidates came and expressed their appreciation for what we were doing. We ate, drank, and conversed on a wide range of issues in Spokane that needed to be addressed. But most importantly, we celebrated. We celebrated discussion. We celebrated debate. We celebrated the fact that we live in an open society that encourages the free exchange of ideas. And we celebrated our joint commitment to providing a platform for such exchanges.
I’m proud of the work conducted by my group of friends (we call ourselves “The Party”). Similar to the Spokane Interfaith Council
, we were looking to bridge the divide. Inclusivity is the foundation of a strong community. And I’m certain that as long as we have folks in our community who are committed to being bridge builders, Spokane will thrive.
Join SpokaneFāVS for a Coffee Talk discussion “Bridging the Divide” Saturday at 10 a.m. at Unity South, 2900 S. Bernard. Burke is a guest panelist.