Let's approach our differences on common ground. And let's do so face to face.

It's been said that our most emotional antipathies, often, are not aimed at those diametrically opposed to our views but rather at those who are “almost like us - but not quite.”

In the Brattleboro area, a significant majority of individuals and families share a worldview that is remarkably consistent when it comes to human rights, and oppression and discrimination against any individual or group based on nationality, race, religion, ethnicity, or gender.

Untold scores of individuals in our area have over the past decades put these ideals into action, participating in protests and civil disobedience against causes like racial discrimination, nuclear proliferation, South African apartheid, and anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence.

We have shared a common abhorrence of the policies of such national leaders as Trump, Netanyahu, Modi, and others who have had so little regard for human rights and human dignity and whose governments have trampled on population groups opposed to their positions.

Our positions on these major national and international issues are unwavering, and we must not allow slight differences in perspective on any single issue to divide us.

The disagreements which have arisen over the Yemeni Blues concert in Putney are an example of essentially like-minded people pitted against one another.

How might such hard feelings best be avoided? How might such issues best be discussed and settled?

With all due respect to the fine newspapers in our community, the newspaper letter is not the ideal way to resolve these disagreements when they arise. (Please excuse this one.)

By contrast, an array of organizations has been taking the lead in helping groups and individuals with such differences on issues to resolve them with kindness, creativity, and mutual respect using face-to-face, facilitated, gentle conversation and active listening.

One example is Braver Angels. Another is our own Compassionate Brattleboro, which can set up such a conversation by emailing [email protected]. Thich Nhat Hanh's “covering mud with straw” technique - described in his book Old Path White Clouds - is another valuable tool.

Let's resolve to approach our differences with an eye to identifying our true commonality, and let's do it face to face. In the process, we will be strengthening our community and providing an inspiring example to others.

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