Commentary - Standing on Common Ground by Wendy Thomas

by Placerville Newswire / Mar 16, 2017 / comments

[Wendy Thomas]

 -- Common ground is the sacred space between divergent perspectives -- 

The Urban Dictionary defines it as …”A common interest between two alienated parties who generally disagree with each other.”   This definition makes a thought-provoking assumption … that people dug into divergent perspectives can willingly work together to find a common interest.

That’s worth fighting for.

As we witness our society grow increasingly divisive with both sides of the aisle quick to point fingers to the “other side” as the root cause of all manner of evil, it’s easy to buy into that narrative, dig our heels into entrenched positions and lob hate-filled attacks at each other, especially on social media.  We’re also pretty good at labeling each other and then stuffing each other into the narrow box we’ve defined.  We assume we know where the other person is coming from, and we are quick to form a vicious judgment on their intent, perspective, or mindset.  And while pockets of that certainly exist here, I have also seen that, as a community, we are often willing and able to search for common ground. That is something to be proud of.

Recently, I had the occasion to see both methods in action when I forced an issue rather than take a more consensus-building approach. It was an interesting learning lesson.

The hate-filled lobs came first. People assumed they knew where I was coming from. They presumed to know my “end game” and defined me by the labels they assigned…labels such as ”racist”, “xenophobe”, a “member of the KKK”, and my personal favorite, “a racist piece of f’in shit”. And while there’s not an ounce of truth to those hate-filled labels, they swirled fervidly around social media.

And yet others showed up differently. Many reached out in agreement that there are difficult challenges that need to be seriously considered. Conversations acknowledged that issues are layered and complicated and so are the solutions. Ideas were shared that opened my thought, that deepened understanding, that recognized there are not simple, one-sided solutions. Some people showed up with grace, and grace breaks through the most difficult impasse.

As I’ve reflected on it, I see that it’s critically important to not buy into the fevered pitch that is playing out on the National Stage, no matter which side you most identify with, because that doesn’t have to be us.  In our community, we are more than who we voted for because that does not fully define us nor should it stop us from pulling together as neighbors, friends and members of the same community.

What does it look like to choose to stand on common ground? I have seen…

  • It starts with giving people the benefit of the doubt…that we are good people who just may have a different outlook.
  • It asks questions to understand, not attack.
  • It stops the naming calling and it stops assuming we know each other by the labels we assign.
  • It agrees that one side is not always summarily right and the other side inherently wrong.
  • It realizes that divergent options can exist together respectfully.
  • It agrees we don’t have to change each other’s mind to feel good about ourselves.
  • It acknowledges that there may be things we don’t know…that there are things we can learn from each other.
  • It recognizes that life, issues, and politics are not just black and white, right and wrong.   They are complex and layered and so are their solutions.
  • It understands that an enlightened life is fluid. That we can stand for our principles while being open to new information.

There’s no doubt in my mind what our common ground is. We are particularly passionate in our devotion and dedication to Placerville, Apple Hill, Cameron Park, El Dorado Hills, Tahoe, the Sierras, the American River and every place in between in El Dorado County.

We all want what’s best for our county and the incredible people in it.  And while we may have differing opinions about what that looks like, we are good people who love our amazing community.

And that is a sacred space on which to stand.