Deepening Connection at the Thanksgiving Table

Oct
28
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Free Webinar
Oct 28, 2021 2:00 PM
EST

About this event

The family can often be a microcosm of America – divided and torn – wanting to heal and not knowing how. In honor of Thanksgiving, join The Democracy Group, Braver Angels, and Culture Shift Agency in this structured conversation exploring how to move from a divided table to one where everyone feels more nourished.

Each guest for this panel has unique experience that informs their understanding of the complex prism of democracy.  We will have a discussion that connects that understanding to the everyday and perhaps walk away inspired to have a better Thanksgiving experience. After all, if we can't learn to work with the divide at our family table, what hope do we actually have to deal with the future of our democracy?

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Mila Atmos

Future Hindsight

Mila Atmos, a global citizen based in New York City, is the producer and series host of Future Hindsight, a weekly podcast that aims to spark civic engagement through in-depth conversations with citizen changemakers. What most informs Mila's worldview is her belief that American democracy is a living, breathing mechanism whose wellbeing deserves to be cultivated and protected. Mila combines life experiences from living in multiple cultures ranging from Indonesia to Germany to the rural U.S. with her knowledge base in history, economics, and international affairs (B.A.; M.I.A. Columbia University) in creating Future Hindsight.

Turi Munthe

On Opinion

Turi Munthe is the founder of Parlia - an encyclopedia of opinion, promoting civil discourse. Prior, he built Demotix, a free speech platform which became the largest network of photojournalists in the world. Turi has been a journalist, talking head, policy advisor and VC. He sits on the board of GEDI, Italy's largest newspaper conglomerate, and was a longtime trustee of Index on Censorship and open Democracy.

Carah Ong Whaley

Democracy Matters

Carah works in partnership with students, faculty, staff and community partners to embed civic learning and democratic engagement across campus through curricular and co-curricular programming. Carah has developed innovative pedagogy melding scholarship and experiential learning to teach courses on civic engagement, campaigns and elections, and state and local politics. At the heart of her research interests is a desire to understand and illuminate how the interactions of political actors and institutions structure public access and participation in policy- and decision-making processes. Carah holds a PhD in American Government and an MA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.

Steve House

Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, Braver Angels

Steve has worked for more 35 years in a variety of executive leadership roles in the healthcare industry. Steve served as Adams County Republican Party Chairman and State GOP Chairman from 2013-2017. Steve was the Republican Candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District in the November 2020 election.

Martha Williams

Co Founder, Culture Shift Agency

Martha, Co-founder and CDO (Chief Dream Officer) of Culture Shift Agency and host of the Culture Shift Podcast, is a brand/media director and process facilitator/inventor. She’s worked with NeuroLeadership, Intel, Connoisseurs, The Kinetix Group, to name a few. An award-winning writer/director, Martha brings unique perspectives and insight to business, leadership, and a myriad of other waves she’s either making or riding. She has had a 20-year career that has crossed many genres, from sustainability to coaching/facilitation to branding/media development – all of which is bridged by a penchant for agitating the invisible personal and cultural fabric that binds us together. Martha’s latest media work, a short-form series about love and dating, recently hit 7 million views on YouTube with 25K subscribers.

John Scilipote

Co Founder, Culture Shift Agency

John, co-conspirator and co-founder of Culture Shift Agency and co-producer of the Culture Shift Podcast, is a technology/brand director and process facilitator/inventor. He’s worked with Sony, PinkFund, Cambridge University Press, IBM, and Tiger21 to name just a few. An accomplished entrepreneur, musician, yogi, poet, and healer, John brings a breadth of talent, passion, and depth to bear in business, facilitation, and whatever else he happens to be plunging into at any given moment. With a 30 year career that spans music performance & production, education/training, technology development, and digital marketing, John is focusing his vision on helping others awaken to and realize a more balanced, collaborative, and sustainable future for

The Culture Shift Agency

Martha Williams and John Scilipote are co-founders of Culture Shift Agency, Inc. and the creators of BreakBread World, a growing global community dedicated to reweaving our common humanity by sharing in the intimate act of breaking bread over active and inspired conversation. They are creators of Mindful Conversation, a practice that helps inspire better listening, increased capacity for curiosity, and deeper compassion and connection to self, others, and our communities. John and Martha bring a mixture of passion, curiosity and humor along with deeply diverse backgrounds as artists, thinkers, creators, and entrepreneurs.

The Democracy Group

The Democracy Group is a network of podcasts united around the goal of helping listeners understand what’s broken in our democracy, and how people are working together to fix it. We see the network as a public service dedicated to creating a more informed, civically engaged electorate.

The Democracy Group is organized and funded by The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, which produces the Democracy Works podcast in partnership with WPSU, central Pennsylvania’s NPR station.

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Deepening Connection at the Thanksgiving Table

October 28, 2021

The family can often be a microcosm of America – divided and torn – wanting to heal and not knowing how. In honor of Thanksgiving, join The Democracy Group, Braver Angels, and Culture Shift Agency in this structured conversation exploring how to move from a divided table to one where everyone feels more nourished.

Each guest for this panel has unique experience that informs their understanding of the complex prism of democracy.  We will have a discussion that connects that understanding to the everyday and perhaps walk away inspired to have a better Thanksgiving experience. After all, if we can't learn to work with the divide at our family table, what hope do we actually have to deal with the future of our democracy?

Featuring

Mila Atmos

Future Hindsight

Mila Atmos, a global citizen based in New York City, is the producer and series host of Future Hindsight, a weekly podcast that aims to spark civic engagement through in-depth conversations with citizen changemakers. What most informs Mila's worldview is her belief that American democracy is a living, breathing mechanism whose wellbeing deserves to be cultivated and protected. Mila combines life experiences from living in multiple cultures ranging from Indonesia to Germany to the rural U.S. with her knowledge base in history, economics, and international affairs (B.A.; M.I.A. Columbia University) in creating Future Hindsight.

Turi Munthe

On Opinion

Turi Munthe is the founder of Parlia - an encyclopedia of opinion, promoting civil discourse. Prior, he built Demotix, a free speech platform which became the largest network of photojournalists in the world. Turi has been a journalist, talking head, policy advisor and VC. He sits on the board of GEDI, Italy's largest newspaper conglomerate, and was a longtime trustee of Index on Censorship and open Democracy.

Carah Ong Whaley

Democracy Matters

Carah works in partnership with students, faculty, staff and community partners to embed civic learning and democratic engagement across campus through curricular and co-curricular programming. Carah has developed innovative pedagogy melding scholarship and experiential learning to teach courses on civic engagement, campaigns and elections, and state and local politics. At the heart of her research interests is a desire to understand and illuminate how the interactions of political actors and institutions structure public access and participation in policy- and decision-making processes. Carah holds a PhD in American Government and an MA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.

Steve House

Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, Braver Angels

Steve has worked for more 35 years in a variety of executive leadership roles in the healthcare industry. Steve served as Adams County Republican Party Chairman and State GOP Chairman from 2013-2017. Steve was the Republican Candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District in the November 2020 election.

Martha Williams

Co Founder, Culture Shift Agency

Martha, Co-founder and CDO (Chief Dream Officer) of Culture Shift Agency and host of the Culture Shift Podcast, is a brand/media director and process facilitator/inventor. She’s worked with NeuroLeadership, Intel, Connoisseurs, The Kinetix Group, to name a few. An award-winning writer/director, Martha brings unique perspectives and insight to business, leadership, and a myriad of other waves she’s either making or riding. She has had a 20-year career that has crossed many genres, from sustainability to coaching/facilitation to branding/media development – all of which is bridged by a penchant for agitating the invisible personal and cultural fabric that binds us together. Martha’s latest media work, a short-form series about love and dating, recently hit 7 million views on YouTube with 25K subscribers.

John Scilipote

Co Founder, Culture Shift Agency

John, co-conspirator and co-founder of Culture Shift Agency and co-producer of the Culture Shift Podcast, is a technology/brand director and process facilitator/inventor. He’s worked with Sony, PinkFund, Cambridge University Press, IBM, and Tiger21 to name just a few. An accomplished entrepreneur, musician, yogi, poet, and healer, John brings a breadth of talent, passion, and depth to bear in business, facilitation, and whatever else he happens to be plunging into at any given moment. With a 30 year career that spans music performance & production, education/training, technology development, and digital marketing, John is focusing his vision on helping others awaken to and realize a more balanced, collaborative, and sustainable future for

Transcripts

John Scilipote  

My name is John Scilipote. I'd like to thank democracy group, and Brandon Stover for inviting us to host this conversation on deepening connection at the Thanksgiving table. We'd like to welcome my partner, Martha Williams.

Martha Williams  

Hi, everybody. Thanks for having us, Brandon and the democracy group. We're excited to be here today. Just a little background on us. John and I are the co founders of culture shift agency, we're dedicated to shifting culture by shifting the conversation because conversation is the fabric that holds us together. And we're making this shift happen through two projects, break bread world and mindful conversation. break bread world is a project that grew out of the pandemic to keep ourselves connected to community, but quickly grew into something much larger. break bread brings folks together over the dinner table virtually or in person for food and conversation. For the purpose of celebrating and restoring our common humanity. And mindful conversation. As a practice we teach to help people have more agency and conversation. We do break bread in our own community, but are also bringing break bread to organizations and businesses to help them grow, invigorate and restore their own communities. And it's these two projects that are why the democracy group reached out to collaborate with us. And needless to say, we're excited to have this conversation about Thanksgiving, the national family meal, as meals can be at the heart of nourishment. And before we get in, started in intros and to the meat of our time together, we just want to do a brief check in with everyone we'd like to hear from everyone in the chat. So not just me, and John and the panelists, but the audience as well. So we're just gonna check in, we'll just gonna, we're gonna type in the chat how we're showing up. Okay, so before we do that, we just want to take our eyes down, and just be here in this moment to just check in, and how we're showing up. And we want to hear from everybody here. So we're showing up showing up in our mind and our bodies and our hearts and then you can open your eyes and just chat. Put it in the chat. So

John Scilipote  

thanks for this shifts the q&a. Yes.

Martha Williams  

So okay. So is everyone doing this?

John Scilipote  

Yes.

Martha Williams  

No one's doing this.

John Scilipote  

There we go. That it really is an optimistic.

Martha Williams  

Okay, type an answer. There we are. I'm excited. All right. Answer. You've got a couple answers here. I feel you. Yeah, typing the answer. Good one. So great. We just like to do that because we so often don't, I can't see what people are typing. So I'm not I don't know why I'm just I'm somehow missing that part of things. So, um, can anybody see what people are? are chatting?

John Scilipote  

Yes, if you go to open in

Martha Williams  

the queue, okay, open. There it is. Okay. So, um, we just do this because showing up is something we teach in our introduction to mindful conversation course. And we asked that question because we, we often don't really think about how, how we're showing up and just by checking in, we're one step closer to being present. And that's a really useful tool when we're gathering and conversation. So I'm, we're happy to introduce our four incredible colleagues to talk with us today. We have Mila Atmos. Mila is a global citizen, based in New York City. Thank you Mila for being here and is a producer and series of N series host of future hindsight. A weekly podcast that aims to spark civic engagement through in depth conversations with citizens changemakers we have Kara Kara on Whaley. She's the host of democracy matters a podcast to educate and inspire people to address public issues, and cultivate a just an inclusive democracy. She's also Associate Director of James Madison Center for Civic Engagement at James Madison University. We also have Tory monta Tory is the founder of Parlier Encyclopedia of arguments, and the host of on opinion, which looks to understand where our opinions come from. And we have Steve house, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at braver angels and national organization whose mission it is, is to bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic. So thank you all for being here. And I'll hand it over to John to kick us off with the first question.

John Scilipote  

Thank you. So for today, our topic is deepening connection at the Thanksgiving table. And Thanksgiving, it is an American family holiday tradition, where we're supposed to come together to celebrate our bounty, and good fortune and to give thanks. However, for some, the Thanksgiving table can feel like a microcosm of an America that many see is divided and torn. And we're asking if we can't come together in our own families at our own holiday tables, will we ever be able to come together as a country? So we thought we'd start today by just talking about tradition, a word that's often seated at the very nexus of polarization between those who seek to preserve what they see as tradition, and sometimes those who lean towards change and question tradition. And ironically, if you look back on US history, challenging tradition, seems to be an American tradition. So we thought by starting, we would start out by asking this first question, are the bonds of tradition being tested? Or even broken? At your holiday tables? And do you see parallels in our greater society?

John Scilipote  

So we thought we'd open up with, I'm going to go to Turri, because he's laughing. And I might add that Turri is from England. So it's, it's a different perspective, not being from the States. And I thought it was an opportunity to perhaps get a different viewpoint.

Turi Munthe  

John, that's very naughty view. And thank you very much for inviting me, Martha, John, it's a real pleasure to be with you. And to be with you, Cara, Steven, and Mila. And I'm looking forward to this conversation. So yes, I'm a complete fraud, I should absolutely not be here. I'm a, I'm a breadth of people that you guys escaped from and are giving thanks to not to no longer be part of. So. I mean, it's almost heretical that I should be here, which makes it all the more honoring to have been invited. John, the thing which strikes me so much about tradition, is that itself, as you've just framed, it's, on some level, polarizing. We have natural tendencies towards and against tradition, almost baked into our genes. From a left, right, progressive, conservative perspective. So it's as if it's as if this, this event itself, is designed to trigger those quite deep seated instincts of conservatorship on the one hand, and progressive on the other. It's a it's a triggering event, full stop. It's not a neutral thing as you frame left and right to respond very differently to rules. But one of the things which is so interesting about it is that while it may, it at first, it feels like it's exclude exclusionary, of change of opportunity. One of the great benefits of tradition is that it brings two of probably the most important elements that we see for positive conversation and one of those is a sense of facing together in the same direction. A common goal and tradition articulates in itself a kind of a common goal because it's a shared ritual. And also inside tradition come these sometimes constraining chafing rules. But rules themselves are also fundamentally useful for even if they're very light touch for great conversation. So it feels as if tradition itself contains both all the the seeds of discontent and some of its, and some of its solutions all in one.

John Scilipote  

Thank you How's Thanksgiving it your table doing?

Mila Atmos  

Well? Well, it's a little bit like Tori explained, just I think it's very well put that the seeds of discontent are baked into tradition into tradition of showing up at the Thanksgiving table. But also at the same time, this is where you can solve this problem. I think one of the opportunities with this tradition of coming together and breaking bread, right is that, to me, it's really an act of coming together with love and gratitude with your family. And even though you may not always appreciate them, here you are, despite perhaps whatever differences you might have. And family is complicated, right? So it doesn't have to be necessarily just your political views that get in the way of maybe having a more carefree time. But it's an opportunity to, you know, to have an open discussion, because I think at the end of the day, when you walk away, these people will still love you, you know, this is not some stranger you're encountering. And so I think it's really fertile, to have conversations that you might not take on in other places. And perhaps that's why you're doing them. Because you'd be like, yeah, you might get into an argument. But when it's all done, you know, tomorrow, you're going to call and everything's okay. Or next year, you're going to come back together and have a similar type of conversation, or maybe something different. But you're confident that those bonds will last. And I think in that sense, this tradition of coming together over Thanksgiving is very valuable. Or any, any holiday meal

John Scilipote  

for the sake of the unbreakable bonds of family. Cara, that you're at your table, is the polarization reflected that you're seeing the DC parallels in the greater society? Are they showing up at your table? Or are you moving into this holiday?

Carah Ong Whaley  

So thank you so much for the opportunity to join this discussion with you all. And, and, and really to be thinking about the role of tradition, and how it might be manifesting in our, in our families. Before I answer, how it's appearing in my own personal life, which I promise I will share. I want us to also think about the role of tradition to begin with, and what those traditions are based off of, I cannot not come to this conversation without the lens of being a political scientist and analyzing power structures. And therefore want us to think about what sorts of traditions we have, and also the myth about those traditions that we might carry, and then the narratives about those traditions. So when we're talking about Thanksgiving, in particular, you know, we are sort of celebrating one particular view, even in this conversation about what it is and should be. And that view is driven by people in power and those who are wanting to propagate a particular story or view. And that can render other members within our society and visible and and also continue to propagate this information about what America is. And so that's how I'm coming to our table and trying to think about whose voices have traditionally been marginalized, or minoritized. In, quote, unquote, tradition. And really think about what questions I can ask to try to move conversations forward, even though we are deeply polarized around issues of inequality, and race and class in this country. So in my family, I'm a first generation college student, I have five younger brothers and sisters. Only half of us went to college. And you can see the polarization along those educational lines manifesting around the issues that we see in America today. And it's not Not surprising. And so as somebody who tries to study and look at structures and systems, politics and power, oftentimes I find myself approaching these conversations with curiosity, and questions, rather than kind of trying to come in and proselytize. Although, at times, I'm done, I cannot always be restrained. And it's increasingly hard for me to do so as we see the perpetuation and instantiation of inequities in this country.

John Scilipote  

Thank you. I'd like to get back to you on some of those points. But first, I want to bring Steve's voice to our gathering, and invite Steve, to share his take on that first question. So

Steve House  

first of all, John, one of the premises you brought up was that if we don't get it right at the family table, we may not get it right for the country, it may actually be the opposite. Because I think sometimes in the family settings, people just bottle up the stress, they contain their stress over their differences with other family members, they never talk about it. You know, they're not starting a war on your front porch. They're not doing anything like that. They're just bottling it up and walking away with it. So I'm not sure it may be that we need to get politics right to actually improve the American family wealth to see how that plays out. For Turi, I'm 51% British, so you know, you're not alone. That's according to 23andme. Anyway, the tradition thing in my family is interesting, because as generations have moved forward, when I was a kid, under the age of 15, Thanksgiving was a religious holiday in our house, because my family was deeply spiritual, very faith based Thanksgiving was about thanking God thanking each other, there was a lot of religious traditions in it. And then we go forward another generation where my parents weren't as spiritual as their parents. And it was less so that it became about, you know, be thankful to which person, you know, in your life, what was the best moment of your year and things like that. And then later in my generation, we became more faith based and went back the other direction. Now, my millennial children are going back the other way. So sometimes it's hard to go through that change in tradition, the one tradition that we've implemented as of last year, and we're carrying it through this year, something I shared with you and Martha before. On in my daily life, I turned my cell phone off at 6pm. And I do not reach for it again until the following morning. And one of the traditions for our Thanksgiving dinner this year is you cannot attend the dinner unless you're willing to put your cell phone in a box when you walk in the door and not touch it again, until the dinner is over. Because we want you to be fully present. I think that actually is going to help the conversation. And that's why I'm excited about that

John Scilipote  

possibility. Hmm. I love that. Yeah, brilliant.

Steve House  

Great. You actually have to talk to each other face to face. Yeah.

Martha Williams  

John, did you have a question? Or because there's so much to chew on here?

John Scilipote  

There really is. I thought your comment about flipping that equation was very interesting sleep. But perhaps if we can't get the politics, right, we can't get the family. Right. And that could be true. But it also made me think that what we what we might be what might be happening in politics is we're hearing the loudest extremist voices. And there's a whole middle that's relatively silent. And, and this silent group is also a way we deal with family, at least at my house, sometimes. There's a lot of silence and a lot of avoidance around. But the let's say it's just a tender touch points might be and so nobody speaks up. And I think that might also be playing into this. There's tension at the table.

Steve House  

Yeah, I certainly think that's true. I mean, you know, my political background, I was deeply involved as a state chairman for the Republican Party in Colorado. And I can tell you that people were more than willing on social media, or face to face to be openly critical of decisions I made or what I was doing, but speak to their own wife or child about something that they were concerned about. They just wouldn't do it. They would leave that alone. So that communication via social media and otherwise was very direct, probably healthy, but it wasn't healthy in their own families. You just weren't willing to take on the big issues that way. And I think we have to get that resolved.

Turi Munthe  

Yeah. Can I jump in here because I also liked Steve Steve's comment about this. Flipping the politics and the personal This perhaps sounds contrary and given quite how messy both the US and I have to say, unfortunately the UK is at a political level polarized by Brexit polarized by response to the Coronavirus and many things besides but there's a political philosopher that Karina, you know, called Bob to lease who's at Vanderbilt University and one of his great, I think additions to this question of discourse is to say, Enough of taking it so seriously, if we can somehow dial down our sense of the importance of the conversations that we're having, at a political level, we can be a little bit freer, both with our opinions and the opinions of others, to Steve's point, because there's perhaps less personal stuff at stake, the conversation flows more freely. It talks, frankly, to the fact that one of the reasons that Thanksgiving table is so terribly fraught, is because it matters at a profound existential level. What Bob's line would be, is that when we bring that sense of existential threat, or existential identitarian, trauma maybe or importance to political discussions, we infuse them with the same, the same frenzy as, as the most emotional conversations that we have over a dinner table with our families. And perhaps that's exactly what we shouldn't be doing. So the anger matters. Steve's point here that actually, it may be that politics is easy to fix. Thanksgiving dinner, Kara's completely not agreement that disagrees. Go for it.

John Scilipote  

Kara, let' s let's hear from

Carah Ong Whaley  

well, I just, I was just laughing, because I'm thinking about how difficult it will be to fix our politics in this moment. And, you know, at what level do we even begin to start? And I think, for me, one of the things I think about a lot is just the fact that we can't even get on the same page with information that we have. So even when we're presented the same information, whether it's politicians or family members, we can't even agree on that information and what it means. And so, you know, I wonder if there's something even deeper about, you know, being able to, you know, being able to look at information, how we process information, right, and then how we embrace our reactions, you know, to that information to move forward? You know, and I think

Steve House  

well, yeah, Steve? Yeah, my my question I thought that was a great point you just made was, is, if you think about the average American family, while many people care about their family members, there seems to be in an ordinary, maybe an extraordinary emphasis on political issues that you wouldn't think would have such a big impact on any individual, right. So we seem to get way more upset about certain issues in the political spectrum, whether they affect us at all or not, I mean, maybe you don't drive and you're really worried about the price of gas for some reason. And, you know, you're all mad about the price of gas, but within the family, you know, my brother, you know, got a DUI. And, you know, I found out he got a DUI and he paid his Paige's bail, and he did everything. And I don't even talk to him about it, you know, that should concern me more. Because it's personal. It's within my family, and he got a DUI, and he's probably put himself at risk. I don't understand, maybe carry you do with what you do. Why so many people play so much emphasis on issues that make them angry, or otherwise emotional, that don't seem to have an impact on their life. And yet, we don't do it at the Thanksgiving table with personal issues involving our family members.

John Scilipote  

Because it's this juxtaposition between local and global. Yep. like to invite my Mila. There's local global discussion is often I think, like Steve said, glossed over or missed. We don't talk about what's happening locally. Global?

Mila Atmos  

Well, I think it's easier to talk about global issues, because it's add or remove, right? Or like, whatever it is, perhaps pertinent to your own family is really, it's too close. Right? Your you don't want to get into a fight with your brother about the DUI, but you're happy to talk about something that happens in the news about somebody that you don't know, which is precisely to your point, Steve, with the people who are happy to criticize you on social media, because they don't actually personally know you and the person. They're perfectly happy to attack you in that forum. But I think one of the things that Tory said here was really interesting is that we don't have to take ourselves so see Seriously, I think one of the things that makes these conversations so combative is that we have this urgency nowadays, to win an argument, but I think we don't have to, we can just hear the other person out and understand them better. And maybe that can get, get us moving towards this common goal that we share us as humans, you know, we, if we don't understand the other person's point of view, however misguided we may believe them to be, you know, you can't actually start to find solutions. I think we, many of us would agree that we would approach problem solving completely differently, you know, I problem solve differently than my husband or my children. I mean, you know, so we can't expect other people to do the same thing. But if we can just be open minded and have a sense of humor, and engage in the listening, and be open to another person's perspective. I think that's, that's really an important starting point, and not try to get in there and win win the battle, so to speak, you know, I think, I think that leads to nowhere, and then the conversation stops.

Carah Ong Whaley  

I just wanted to briefly Wait. You know, I think there's something, you know, a distinction to make between, you know, we said something about, we don't get upset when you know, a member of our family might get a DUI, right. You know, we can love we still love and accept them, right? That was the behavior that happened, right? They're still fundamentally the same person. But then yet, when they might challenge our beliefs, there's a different reaction, right. And so there's a, I want to make that distinction between, you know, we might be having different reactions, because there's behavioral, and then there's challenging of belief systems. And we do know from political psychology research that that is very triggering, triggering, and that people do have much greater, you know, it's the way our brains are function, right? This is a defensive mechanism that is actually built into us, for us to emotionally respond, you know, when we think our beliefs are challenged, and so that's a little bit harder to, you know, to work through, especially in a moment, right, that we're in might be tense, and when our fight or flight mechanisms have have kicked in, and not all of us have necessarily been to therapy to think through how we actually might work through those situations.

Martha Williams  

Yeah, I was gonna ask, What is the urgency? And it seems like you just answered that beliefs are being tested, and pushed and questioned. And you also mentioned Cara, that tradition is about power dynamics. And I just wonder if anybody wants to speak to that, because I know for me and my family, what's the tense is that we're upholding this really old family power dynamic, where my father is at the head of the table. He doesn't accept us into equanimity. And so it's never really that fun. Because he's living in this other paradigm. And so in my love of Him, I often just silent and we just let him be. So is that the right? Is that the right way to handle that power? Power dynamic? So just want to is Does anybody have anything to say about the role of, of the power dynamic in this in the Thanksgiving table as it relates to democracy?

Steve House  

We think it. So first of all, Martha, as the person who's now risen to the head of the table, I don't want anybody to change my power dynamic, because I'm at the head of the table, and I get to eat first. But setting that aside, there is a power dynamic and how the dinner, you know, proceeds, and there's a fear, you know, people are afraid to speak up on certain things. I mean, I clearly in my family, there's a couple people who would say, why are we eating at all? I mean, this holiday celebrating taking land and life away from Native Americans, why are we eating at all I mean, we should even be having the celebration, we should be fasting, you know, instead, but you know, those are, you know, the 25 year old children of my generation, you have a different awareness of it than we do. And so, by the virtue of the fact that they're not sitting at the head of the table, they're not bringing that up. And quite frankly, we probably should talk about it. I really think we should and I think that if we could find a way to open it up so that they didn't have fear and bringing those issues up. It's kind of like going back to the defund the police thing, right? If you if you live in a major city like Denver, Colorado and defund the police as an issue, you might have a serious opinion on it. But if you live in you, Ray Colorado, defund the police means absolutely nothing. So you can't have a discussion between two people on the subject that live one and you Ray and one in Denver, they just don't matter. However, if you want to talk about the meaning of Thanksgiving, and you're willing to open up to the discussion to that I think the people at the head of the table have to lead and make that happen. And I don't know that that's happening as well today with those of us sitting at the head.

Turi Munthe  

That's one of the things which I'm, I'm most touched by of my faith, which is Judaism is that there is a long tradition after the destruction of the Second Temple of rabbinic exegesis. And essentially what happens with very, very short background history, but with the destruction of the Second Temple. But under the Romans, all the sights of ritual for Judaism disappeared, the place that one sacrificed a place that one, band offerings, etc, all went. And so what happened is that the all these traditions, all these rituals, in a sense had to move, not unlike us today, into the realm of a virtual that, essentially, we moved on to zoom in around the turn of the two Millennials ago. What that means is that, that process of tradition, what what tradition is, is a particular form of argumentation, it's a particular form of conversation, where the texts which are being used are constantly the same ones. But the work is done a new every time. So one of the things which is so beautiful about reading, that rabbinic exegesis on the Bible, is that you are reading the commentary of other people who like you have tried to find relevant truth, about the same piece of text 100 years ago, 500 years ago, 1000 years ago. And in a sense, there's tradition is in that their tradition is in going back and questioning this foundational text of the Bible, and coming up with new iterations, coming up with new interpretations for a very contemporary context, every time. And what that does is it builds this beautiful line of transmission of thoughts between humans going back 1000s of years now 2000 years, trying to do the same thing trying to establish what counts as some form of virtue. And that is very beautiful. And I feel Steve, you've just described something very similar, which is that if the Thanksgiving table is a place to give thanks, that question of thanks needs to be opened up every time. And that makes great conversation, I feel that's care a little bit what you're talking about to it's bringing it all open to the table. But with this tradition of doing it. The reason that we have the anniversaries is the reason that we have kind of a yearly cycle of things, it reminds us to do things over an extended period of time, because that repetition in itself does funky things to the way that we think and the way that we feel.

Carah Ong Whaley  

I love what you just said Tori and and Steve. And it also prompted me to think about the way in which tradition. And even if we want to think about Thanksgiving in this context, has really become an institution and how we institutionalize those norms and practices. But then what happens, you know, similarly, like with our political institutions, what happens when those institutions are no longer responsive? Right, and we had someone who is participating, talking about suggesting what if we created a new tradition? And I think that's something you know, for if we think about, you know, trying to reimagine what the tradition looks like, if we can come together and think about, you know, what kinds of conversations should we be reimagining or envisioning at the table each year? You know, and that and who gets in this is why it's the power dynamic, who gets to decide, right, what that tradition is, but how can we reimagine it collectively together? I think that's what our politics needs. And it is what our families need in this moment to is, how do we come together in a collective project, where we reimagine what these traditions what these political institutions look like, what our family is look like and how we can engage together.

John Scilipote  

Yeah, Steve. Thank you, Kara.

Steve House  

So I think that's a great comment. One of the things that always comes up for me as a question is, traditions generally are based on a set of truths, things that you all know as a family, right? It's Thanksgiving, right? The Pilgrims were good people, the Indians and pilgrims ate together. It was a positive experience. Columbus was a good person. When those truths start to get questioned, then traditions fall apart, right? Because you could be sitting at a table with the Half the people believing that Thanksgiving is a good thing and the other half not believing it's a good thing. During my period of growing up primarily in the 70s, it was never question you never had that. And I think we've got a unique challenge right now, because what the truth is both morally and absolutely the truth in a lot of situations has either changed or it's in flux. So how do you have a tradition if you don't know what the truth is? Or you don't all agree on what it is?

John Scilipote  

I think it's interesting what Turi mentioned about Julius, I grew up Catholic, YouTube, my Catholicism was grounded in not questioning. It was really this is the way it is. And to question was a troubling, it was put down, it was to ask too many questions was troublesome. And later in my 20s, I studied Judaism for a short while. And I was just floored by this tradition that Tory mentioned, of questioning. And it was interesting how that tradition questioning, tradition doesn't mean throwing it out. And there's this renewal, this opportunity for renewal. And I don't know that that's in our culture, in our tradition in the United States, where questioning is actually a threat. And I wonder if this is a side effect of Christianity.

Steve House  

It could be it could be a side effect of the political environment and Christianity combined. But what you're really talking about John and Terry, you should weigh in on this. I think that by asking questions about Judaism, and I studied theology as a minor in college myself, by asking questions, when you get the answers, it solidifies the truth for you. Because you're not relying on someone else's opinion of the truth, you go find it on your own. And oftentimes, if it is the same truth, then you end up in a great place to have traditions and have a solid foundation.

John Scilipote  

Yeah. And I want to bring me because a lot of your podcasts do this exact thing. I think the ones that I've heard, is questioning status quo, and putting a different bent on it. And I thought that was interesting. And I think there's an interesting point to be made here.

Mila Atmos  

Well, on the subject of truth, I think there's some objective realities, you know, like, the sky is blue, or it's not blue. And I think when people talk about truth now, and they say the truth is shifting, I would disagree with that. Description, I would say that we didn't know the fuller picture. And so the truth looks different today than it used to. But it isn't that it has, you know, that one thing is true. And another thing is not, you know, were the pilgrims, good people, I'm sure some of them are, just like some of us are right now. And some of us some of the pilgrims were bad people, you know, like this is to say that, it just it's like this simplification to say the pilgrims are good. And we broke bread together with Native Americans at that time, and it was all good. Clearly, that wasn't true. You know, as we know, now, the evidence has shown us it's not fully accurate. And so and that a lot of Native Americans at that time were starving. And so I think we need to be very careful when we talk about what's true and what's not, unless we actually really know the truth. And sometimes we don't know it, you know, that's the other part. Truth is sometimes not

John Scilipote  

evident. That's good point.

Mila Atmos  

And, and the picture becomes Fuller, and we get to know more and more over time. All right.

Turi Munthe  

What I mean, I love where you come at this, the truth as, as something which is arrived at or gestured to the importance of not taking ourselves too seriously. This business of reminding ourselves not to try to win the argument, all of these things resonate very, very strongly with me. One of the things which has been fascinating building, my slightly delusional Encyclopedia of argument has been emerge from from from a sort of realization that when you're really faced with somebody on the other side of the fence, which you care about, it's not that you don't think it's not Do you think that they're wrong is that they feel morally corrupt in some way. And they also and this is the thing which has always struck me they feel insincere. I can never take on people who I really disagree with. I can't really believe that they think what they think I think here's one of the One of the nightmares is that one, that's the first step towards dehumanizing the other. Right? But, but to also points to is, if you flip it, I'm using the Steve, the famous Steve house flip. And you think of it this in slightly different terms, what it does is it reminds you that if, if, if you see the other side of the rational and, and untethered in reality, they see the same thing around you. And they may be right. And in fact, maybe both sides are right. Most of our cognition is done for social purposes not. To get to the truth, we don't really care that much about the objective truth. In most of our interactions, we're mostly performing a series of sort of epistemological gestures for protection to build tribe to make sure we're safe to ensure that we're inside a community. And an extension of that is therefore, an enormous number of the opinions that we think are ours, our ideas which we cherish, that we think we've achieved, we've earned through rational, sweat and toil, to come from our stomachs, they don't come from my heads. And this realization, I suppose, may lead to your point that there are ideas, we should just take them a little less seriously, we should take our own rationalism a little bit less seriously. I think it's very nice step. It's a useful thing for me anyway, in my engagement with the other side. Because I, you So put yourself in the head of the other person looking back at you and agree with them that you probably don't know what you're talking about?

Mila Atmos  

Well, I would add here is that when you take yourself slightly less seriously, I think it helps you to stay humble, you know, if you come to a conversation with humility, and you show that you're open minded, that you may be persuaded by the other person's argument, which is not to say that you will be I think there may be also more open to hear you out, you know. But again, I think if we think we're going to change somebody else's mind, it's very difficult, I don't think you should go into the conversation with this assumption that's very, very tricky. And then you will most definitely get into a fight. And so I think the purpose is to share ideas and perspectives and And, little by little, I hope that we can arrive sort of at the same goal, you know, a more human place to live on this planet.

Steve House  

But one of the best experiences I've had thus far with raver angels has been one on one conversations with people who would be completely the opposite of me in a political ideological sense. And the key to those conversations being successful and relationships being built as simply saying, Why do you believe what you believe? If I understand why you believe what you believe, then it helps me humanize you and have a conversation. If you don't, if I don't know why you believe something that I am opposed to, then I don't have any basis of having a real conversation. So understanding why people believe what they believe at the family level at the community level, its political level, I think it's really important.

John Scilipote  

Yeah, and I think that that speaks to some strategies for choices that we can make, you know, how do we, how do we short circuit the performative as Terry Munch mentioned? Are people feeling their identity identities being threatened, or this urgency to win? How do we, how do we short circuit that or leap ahead? And I think Steve, asking that question is, is one way to do it? Are there other thoughts or examples, things that you think that you've tried or can suggest?

Mila Atmos  

I think one other question that, after Steve's question, why do you believe that, that I found useful, not always successful, sometimes puts people kind of back on their heels is to ask, What would change your mind? You know, what would it take for you to change your mind? Like what will be the evidence that you need? And evidence is maybe not the right thing, but sort of, you know, like, Tori said, this is all about what you believe in your gut. And so evidence may is not going to be the thing that's going to change your mind. But there's something you know, there's something that you might discover that might lead you to another thought that you didn't have before.

John Scilipote  

That's great. Yeah, I

Carah Ong Whaley  

think going off of what you both have said, I also approach it from a from an inquisitive or curious point of view. I tried to understand. I think this is partially, you know, behind Steve's question, but where where do you come from? What's your life story? And I don't usually ask it that way. But just trying to ask someone about their experiences. And you know, who they are as a person. You know, kind of re instills that humanity. The Because I think, you know, we are, we are a product of our experiences. And we all you know, we have different worldviews because we have different experiences in this world. And and so learning more about the past of an individual, I think is is really important. And getting at that, why they believe what they might believe. And and then also another question that all I'll try to hone in on is, you know, what, what does that mean to you? You know, for example, when we've had this question of the or this logline, which I think is a terrible tagline, the hashtag defund the police. You know, what does that mean to you, because that, that is something that has been extremely polarizing. And, you know, I just hosted a Capitol police officer on campus the other day, and, you know, he, you know, we were talking about this, and he was talking about this with with students, you know, for him, you know, as a Capitol police officer, you know, he, the notion of defund the police is really not just you, you reduce the number of police officers, it's that you fund additional social workers, because police can't respond to every situation. And so I think getting at this, you know, this question of, you know, what, what does, you know, whatever tagline or talking point we might hear, in, in the dominant narratives, you know, trying to get at why people how people understand what that means, or why, or what that meaning has, I think there's there's a way to find some commonalities and common ground and and really think about, okay, well, we might agree that there is this problem, but then again, how can how can we address that collectively? And I think getting at that meaning making question is really important as well.

Turi Munthe  

There's a, there's a last element to this, which may be a list of framer of it, which is everything that three of you said, I think makes deep sense to me. But there's also this key piece, perhaps, or sort of table, which is, you know, what, why are you doing what you're doing now? Why are you arguing in this way? Now? What's happening now? What's it, what's the function of the thing that's happening, and there are certain conversations, for all good conversations to happen, they, everybody needs to be doing the same thing. And that's either trying to hear the other side, or trying to hash out some kind of workable consensus. But when, when people are doing different things, ostensibly via the same medium, if you end up you end up, sort of by definition, nowhere if somebody is trying to listen, and somebody is trying to assert themselves, or if somebody is trying to be heard, and someone else is trying to stabilize, you end up at cross purposes, because of course, again, we think, for a function, we don't just think in a void. We talk in a function just in a void.

Martha Williams  

I'm hearing from both of you, there's this idea of getting kind of getting behind things. And trying to understand getting going a little bit deeper, not taking things at face value.

John Scilipote  

Yes, finally, finding ways to move into understanding. I think, well, you're gonna

Martha Williams  

add anything. Sorry, John.

John Scilipote  

Well, I think we're on the verge of needing to wrap up. So I just wanted to invite each person to to perhaps share a takeaway for you know, when holds the promise of help or hope for him something that our audience members can bring to their holiday gatherings? And I think we've mentioned some, but are there others? And thought I'd start with Martha, before I put anybody else on the spot.

Martha Williams  

Oh, okay. So, so yeah, we, I have a takeaway that we can offer to our audience, break bread world at the center of every break bread world experience, which is a dinner. We have a prompt, and it's a it's a it's one question, and it's designed to really bring bring people together. Let me see if I can find this prompt. Here it is. And so we offer this prompt as a way to get below the events of the world and to get below gossip. And so we just offer this and it is We say grace at the beginning of every meal as a way of giving thanks. But grace can also refer to receiving a divine or profound gift. how or where has Grace revealed itself in your life. So we bring these questions to the center of our dinners, as a way to instigate storytelling, to bring people into their feeling states, and also to bring people into something that that is something we all share. So we work in the in the level of common humanity, that's our offering. Anyone else?

John Scilipote  

It also speaks to lightening the mood, perhaps not taking yourself seriously, as was said earlier.

John Scilipote  

I certainly love Steve's box, cell phones away in the box.

Steve House  

You know where that comes from? Jana, maybe this is the moment of grace for me. The last couple of years, every year in January, I go to Kenya. And I go to the poorest areas of Kenya with a humanitarian group doctors, mostly, we do health care work. And last year, a woman approached me who had to be no more than about four feet tall. She had no hair, no teeth. She had a folder in her hand, and she handed it to me and I said, Is this your medical records? Nobody has medical records? And she said, Yes, I opened it up. And there was a birth certificate in there. And her birthday was July 10, of 1900. And I said, are you really 120 years old? And this was January? And she said, No, I'm only 119. And I said, Why are you here? And people confirm her age. She said, My youngest child died at 92. Last year, and I can't read the Bible anymore. And she said peace and grace for me starts with reading good words, and reflecting on those good words before I interact with any other person that day, and every day, and I have adopted that. And it's been an incredible experience doing that, as well as getting rid of the cell phone after five o'clock. Wow.

John Scilipote  

Thank you for sharing

Martha Williams  

that. Yeah, I mean, it just goes to show that speaking about things below the surface, you know, these are our values, this is about a way of moving through the world can be a way of actually really getting clear on our traditions, like what's behind the traditions. Any other advice or hope, or hope, last bits of advice or hope for the audience? Well,

Mila Atmos  

I would like to share a hope and it's simply that we that we're willing to listen this next holiday and really be active listeners, patient listeners, and not just listening so you can prepare your rebuttal but actually really be present with what the other person is saying.

Steve House  

Seek first to understand right? And really do that.

Mila Atmos  

Yes, really do that and maybe have no response you know, like that the primary activity is to listen

Martha Williams  

and not to be listening just from you know your head but also from your heart.

Turi Munthe  

Um, yes, exactly. This I mean, like every I keep on wanting to lay down what you say and have been but but we at least perhaps it's a UK education thing, but we're always forced towards conclusions. It's very difficult to come up and we were kind of doing it here like, what are the conclusions? What should we be doing? How do we go forward into the world? Maybe, maybe, maybe counter intuitively, the one of the best ways of going out forward into wireless, just not look for conclusions, but to but to love the question. That lovely, wonderful, quite threatening space of ambiguity allows for so many wonderful things to happen. So loving the questions, I think

John Scilipote  

is a good starting point to thank you, Kara.

Carah Ong Whaley  

We have a norm in our classroom that we embrace tension and conflict and so maybe starting off with some norming at the Thanksgiving table about what is you know what, what can we all agree to this year can also be helpful. And then another question that I've really enjoyed asking this year is what brings you joy and and finding the things you know, particularly in these challenging times for Many people know how are we finding ways to, to be to find time for ourselves and care for ourselves? And concluding with? How are we going to be responsible for others?

Steve House  

Perhaps in your case, carrots and Bob's a little white dog, for example.

Carah Ong Whaley  

Sorry, he's been good most of the time. But yeah, great to get on my lap now. Oh,

Steve House  

great.

John Scilipote  

So yes, all all good bits of wisdom, especially and find that listening piece. Because when we really dare to listen deeply, we risk opening our hearts and we risk changing our minds. So in closing, we'd like to thank our panelists. We let us host a future hindsight. Carry on when the cost of legacy matters during Monday, close the bone opinion. And Steve house of gray Rachel's, please, for our audience, make sure to check out their podcasts, websites and the amazing work that they're doing. And, of course, thank you to the democracy group and to Brandon Stover. And thank all we give thanks to all of our audience members for showing up. And Chancellor party.

Martha Williams  

I'm Martha Williams. And you can check us out at BreakupBrad dot world where you can check out what we're doing our upcoming events, including our next mindful conversation course, which starts Tuesday. And if you're listening to this webinar, we have a discount code for you that you will be getting in an email that will follow this the closing of our event today. So we thank you all very much joy and a pleasure to hear your wisdom and to play with you today. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks so much. Thanks for having us. Thank you. Thank you

Presented by

The Culture Shift Agency

Martha Williams and John Scilipote are co-founders of Culture Shift Agency, Inc. and the creators of BreakBread World, a growing global community dedicated to reweaving our common humanity by sharing in the intimate act of breaking bread over active and inspired conversation. They are creators of Mindful Conversation, a practice that helps inspire better listening, increased capacity for curiosity, and deeper compassion and connection to self, others, and our communities. John and Martha bring a mixture of passion, curiosity and humor along with deeply diverse backgrounds as artists, thinkers, creators, and entrepreneurs.

The Democracy Group

The Democracy Group is a network of podcasts united around the goal of helping listeners understand what’s broken in our democracy, and how people are working together to fix it. We see the network as a public service dedicated to creating a more informed, civically engaged electorate.

The Democracy Group is organized and funded by The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, which produces the Democracy Works podcast in partnership with WPSU, central Pennsylvania’s NPR station.

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