Town and Country Chapter 01


This chapter meets using GoToMeeting. It is supported by a secret Facebook group.
Members may also communicate via email and messages.

This chapter gathered for the first time, “just after the afternoon nap and before supper” on Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 4 p.m. This chapter will meet next November 12, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Email reminders will be sent in early November.

We seek to discover if we can use social media to create a Just Elders chapter. Five people were on the call. Some of our invitees had last minute conflicts. If all invitees had gathered, people from four organizing networks would have been represented. All have invested a lifetime of work for the common good. We will be learning as we go.

(This the second version of this document. My great grandson, Aaron, deleted the first version of this document. He is one and taking his first steps. He pulled himself up to my computer desk and he reached enough keys to delete it. It is probably too early to tell, but we may have a precocious digital chip off the old block!)

Here are descriptions of two conversation threads. Each person will describe the call differently.

Difficult Conversations:

Most of the participants are still working. Care must be taken when sharing opinions. Conversations can become difficult. We spent some time discussing ways of navigating these conversations. Telling personal stories and listening to the personal stories is helpful. We have all heard reports of people withdrawing from vitriolic conversations. One of the participants told a story that illustrates the importance of being authentic during difficult conversations. Risk taking is required to bring our authentic selves to any conversation. The importance of “I” statements was affirmed. The group was reminded that in some states Democrats were inviting people into conversations not to persuade but to build relationships. One member recommended a TEDX Fargo Talk by Jessica Thomasson on difficult conversations.

Role of the Church:

We discussed the role of the church in the current climate. Several were aware of the story of Pastor Robert E. Lee, IV who introduced Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer who was killed as she protested white supremacy in Charlottesville. The religious community is getting mixed reviews. Even when leaders carefully prepare the community to participate in moral deliberation, people on both the left and right walk away if the church does not mirror their own convictions in the message of the congregation. Other times careful intervention can make a difference. One participant told the story of a Bishop who greatly reduced the number of congregations withdrawing from his denomination during the sexuality debates. He repeatedly showed up to have face-to-face conversations with people on the ground. Where religion is involved in politics, very often it seems to be true that being right and controlling the cultural narrative is more important than faithfulness to the Biblical narrative.

The hour went by very quickly. Participants are willing to gather again in two months.

Chapter meeting conversations can continue “after” the gathering strengthening our stance as citizens. This can change our thoughts and actions.

Here are some strands in the “after” conversation:

Several comments revealed a common appreciation of Berne Brown; including her initial talk on vulnerability, and her latest work on Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice, This is a way to show up in difficult conversations.

One participant suggested a Ted Talk that relates to our discussion of religion.

This is Ted’s description of this talk: We all have origin stories and identity myths, our tribal narratives that give us a sense of security and belonging. But sometimes our small-group identities can keep us from connecting with humanity as a whole — and even keep us from seeing others as human. In a powerful talk about how we understand who we are, Chetan Bhatt challenges us to think creatively about each other and our future. As he puts it: it’s time to change the question from “Where are you from?” to “Where are you going?”

Can we insist that religion unifies us around purpose rather than fear? We have had at least 30 years of politico/religious stoking of the flames of fear: apocalyptic fear, first communist then Islamic terrorist fear, even fear of government, fear of scarcity when we live in a land of abundance.

A post call question about cell phone apps that can be used to communicate with our members of congress prompted me to share several cell phone apps with our large list of subscribers. These apps allow you to exercise your civic responsibility using the power of your phone.

Countable makes it quick and easy to understand the laws Congress is considering. We also streamline the process of contacting your lawmaker, so you can tell them how you want them to vote on bills under consideration. You can use Countable to: Read clear and succinct summaries of upcoming and active legislation. Directly tell your lawmakers how to vote on those bills by clicking “Yea” or “Nay.” Follow up on how your elected officials voted on bills, so you can hold them accountable in the next election cycle.
Congress makes it easy to: Find your representatives, see how they vote; See what bills are coming up for a vote next; Search for bills and votes you should know about; Stay on top of floor activity, committee hearings; and Be notified of just about everything.

This link will give you more information on these apps and three others.

One of our participants is active in a local “huddle.” The huddle gathers people together like we hope to gather people into chapters. They are being intentional about listening to candidates and encouraging candidates for public office. Maybe Just Elders could learn from this practice.

Connecting with others helps us think about unresolved questions we have.

If action is the life breath of Alinsky organizing, then user generated content is the life breath of social media organizing.

I have been thinking and sometimes urging a counter-cultural use of social media. Here are some examples: Turning off the 24-hour news cycle. Not acting from fear. Trying to find people on the other side of the argument willing to work on solutions that lead to a new American narrative.

We are trying to discover if we can focus the voice of Just Elders by informing and inspiring one another through our use of social media. Few people are willing to write and join the dialogue in the public square. Perhaps this is because you never know when you will stumble into a difficult conversation. Perhaps we just need to grow our way into a larger stable of writers.

People still use Pseudonyms. Books about Social Media marketing as well as other subjects are being written under pseudonyms. That discovery led to this question: Do we need to employ pseudonyms to create a stable of Just Elders’ bloggers? Just Elders could have two sets of permissions: one under their name and the other under their pseudonym. In the latter case, an avatar could replace their picture. Can we use our anonymity for the common good?

This was a new thought for me. It is being entertained because I connected to Elders at a GoToMeeting gathering.

So, this is the story of Just Elders Town and Country. The GoToMeeting gathering was enjoyable. The meeting led to further sharing that could advance the conversation and spur other actions.