Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Talking politics

Paul Saffo is managing director of foresight at Discern, an institutional investment research firm in San Francisco. He recently wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle about how we can better discuss politics in this nation of democracy.
Americans don't talk politics enough. We have outsourced the conversation to quarrelsome politicians and talk show celebrities. The consequence is that Americans are failing at the most basic task of civics: the obligation to fully understand the issues facing us and participate as informed citizens in running our country. It is time to take the conversation back. Our democracy is utterly dependent upon an informed and engaged citizenry. We must talk to each other about politics to form thoughtful opinions and maybe learn something that will help us run our communities. We may as well start at home.
. . .
Of course, conversation alone is insufficient if the participants are clueless. Political conversation is not welcomed at American dinner tables in no small part because most Americans have no idea what they are talking about. A recent Newsweek poll suggests that 38 percent of Americans would fail the U.S. citizenship test, and a shocking 73 percent couldn't explain why we fought the Cold War.

This ignorance is precisely the problem we need to fix, and we can do it over dinner. Pick a topic to discuss, inform your guests and invite them to read up on it in advance. Something in the news is great, but make it bite-size.

To learn how this might done, read this.