As another political convention gets underway this week and tensions in a divided America light up our social media feeds, imagine if instead of trading snarky comments and hovering over the “unfriend” button, we sought, instead, to better understand their worldview?
British philosopher Alain de Botton goes further and suggests we break bread with those who disagree with us – literally:
“Sitting down at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. However, the proximity required by a meal – something about handing dishes around, unfurling napkins at the same moment, even asking a stranger to pass the salt – disrupts our ability to cling to the belief that the outsiders who wear unusual clothes and speak in distinctive accents deserve to be sent home or assaulted. For all the large-scale political solutions which have been proposed to salve ethnic conflict, there are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.”
Of course, COVID-19 has put a damper on dining out, but taking a heated text-based conversation offline, looking for ways to build understanding without necessarily seeking agreement and connecting with another person who is passionate about their beliefs can be meaningful, more now than ever before.
That’s how we build a stronger community and a stronger nation.