Council Message by Mayor Craig Margolis
I am a modern-day citizen of Montgomery. I crave diversity, whether I am walking into a fast-food restaurant and ordering a meal “my way” or acquiring news to satisfy my curiosity about the world around me.
I do not think I am unique, yet I hear stories of coworkers, family members, or even spouses getting into intense arguments about government policy or, put succinctly, politics in general because the other holds a view opposite their own.
That is a startling statement today, where disagreements produce cries of “you are the enemy” or even that your viewpoint is not valid. We Americans are much more politically divided than at any point in the last two decades, according to such esteemed pollsters as PEW Research.
Partisan animosity has increased, which sometimes makes it difficult to have a conversation without it evolving into a shouting match. Have we collectively lost the ability to be civil, understanding, and compassionate with friends and our fellow residents? Your City Council would like to offer an alternate way to engage those conversations.
City Council, along with the City of Montgomery Diversity and Inclusion Commission, will be embarking on a journey, learning how to have difficult conversations while remaining civil and respectful. We will be partnering with a citizen-led group called Braver Angels.
As discovered in post-workshop surveys, among 1,800 participants in workshops directed by Braver Angels found that about 79% of the participants felt that they better understood “the experiences, feelings, and beliefs of those on the other side,” and that they, in turn, felt better understood. About 75% of participants felt less angry and less estranged toward those on the other side following the workshops, and about 80% felt that they were “more able to start constructive conversations” with them (Braver Angels, 2018).
Montgomery government, while not able to solve every individual problem, is attempting to provide tools and roadmaps assisting residents with mental health issues, examples of how to embrace those who do not look like us, and now how to empathize with those who do not hold the same opinions as we do.
This is one of the tasks I am delighted to work on, to continue this long march of those who worked on council’s past, to make our community a better place to live. To solve our myriad issues, we must continue the movement from the divisive to the civil.
I do not believe we can solve these types of issues unless we engage with you, our residents, unless we learn together that each and every one of us has a unique angle on our future path. Many times, there is no wrong way, there are simply better ways to solve a problem.
Please join the journey with us to make this the year you have control of how you respond and interact with difficult conversations and engage with us together.