I wrote this letter in 2001 and didn't get anywhere with it until 2006, when i showed it to some friends and the ball started rolling. I'm posting this now because I just want to provide a little more of the thinking that was involved for anyone who might be interested...References to Bush II are obviously dated but I think most of the text still applies, and thus having a forum is still relevant, IMHO.
This idea springs from the idea that all men and women are created equal, the idea that America stands for liberty and justice for all. It is a vision for America in the new millennium, an America that more truly reflects the ideals upon which it was formed.
Call me pessimistic, but things aren’t really getting much better for people on planet earth broadly speaking. Of course, things are getting to be the “best” they’ve ever been for a lucky handful of individuals, especially with Dubya at the helm. But for the majority, the People, the largest socio-economic demographic of the human population, things aren’t really improving as we consider the recent past and future outlook. That’s my opinion, sure, but I wonder how many people would agree with me.
Now consider an all too common phenomenon in my life and I imagine many others across the land; I’m bored! I’m not interested in drinking, though I don’t have a whole lot against it. T.V. is mostly a huge mind waste. I go bike riding but I can’t do that all the time. Hobbies are fine but sometimes expensive. Plus, there’s that nagging feeling that nothing really matters and we’re missing something as a society.
So, I’ve been to rallies and protests, heard speeches and been to churches, read publications and seen shows, etc. usually to discover that most of the audience is the proverbial “choir” that is being preached to. Though these kinds of activities serve noble purposes, they are nevertheless limited, particularly in terms of generating a conversation, a debate, a bridge between opposing viewpoints to reach a greater understanding of the reality in which we exist. In fact, when only a single group gets together to hear ideas and issues that the group already agrees with, it serves to further separate that group from, well, everyone else. This is a systemic process, which has a tendency to get out of control sometimes with horrible consequences (e.g. Cults, dictatorships, etc.)
TOO LONG HAVE WE AS A PEOPLE ACCEPTED THE NOTION THAT THE TWO THINGS ONE SHOULD NEVER DISCUSS IN PUBLIC ARE RELIGION AND POLITICS, INDEED, THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT AND RELEVANT TO TALK ABOUT, ESPECIALLY WITH PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE.
E PLURIBUS UNUM, indeed, but we haven’t shared and/or experienced the “UNUM” enough. And therein lies a new possibility for human existence on planet Earth.
The idea for Public Forum is to provide a context in terms of physical, psychological and social/societal space for the active clashing and mashing, the mixing and fixing of opposing viewpoints regarding issues of concern in order to more fully understand a particular issue, a debate and/or discussion of free-flowing form to perchance understand the fundamental differences that divide us, the People of America (Who, as we all know, are the people of the World). I believe that understanding our fundamental differences will serve to 1) make us realize how alike we all really are 2) bring us all closer together and 3) perhaps create a better world for everyone. (i.e. come up with better solutions for some of our problems) Too often we have seen how fear of differences leads to hate and disrespect and even violence, whereas understanding leads to respect, love, cooperation, and perhaps even consensus.
But alas, the future is becoming more and more uncertain even as we speak.
The goal of the idea is to develop, through the very process, a new mechanism that functions to bring people together physically and intellectually. A Human Interaction that requires a diversity of viewpoints in order to operate optimally. The output being more direct
participation in a society by, for and of all people, NOT JUST the elected officials, the D’s and
R’s, the specialists, the clergy, the academics, bureaucrats, the land-owners, the business
owners, the country club members, the union members, the unorganized workers, the environmentalists, the anarchists, the hippies, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Mormons, the Baptists, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Wiccans, the Pagans, the Taoists, the atheists, the agnostics, (you get the idea but I’ll go on) the Chicano Cultural Center, the Asian Cultural Center, the Black Cultural Center, the Longhouse, the LGBT club, the WASP club, the homeless, the migrant, The Department of Philosophy, the Dept. of Economics, the administration, the Hells Angels, the Tuesday Afternoon Club, whatever tiny splinter of society you have claimed as your preference or found yourself deposited for the bulk of your life. The idea is; everyone is invited, and indeed, the more viewpoints, the merrier. Not to see how many arguments will erupt but to see which ideas stand up and which are a bunch of bullshit, because lets face it, none of us knows everything there is to know. I don’t care if it’s the Pope or Ariel Sharon or certainly our Commander in Chief, George W., or even the Dalai Lama, Mohammed, or Jesus Christ of Nazareth himself. Although some of the aforementioned have or had a better grasp of the situation than average.
Listening will be practiced. Democracy will be practiced. Expression will be practiced. Creativity will be practiced. Oration will be practiced. Sign making will be practiced. Debate will be practiced. Learning will be practiced. Critical thinking will be practiced. Spirituality and Wisdom will be practiced…in real time, face to face with our neighbors and community members (as opposed to on a computer screen, in our “houses”, in seclusion).
Potential violence is certainly an issue to consider. Most people are extremely passionate about the views and beliefs they hold. They don’t like being challenged. Therefore it is CRUCIAL to make it clear that violence will not be tolerated and will be dealt with most severely and swiftly. Also, that all individuals are equally respectable and worthy of consideration must be made clear. The implication is that disruptive behavior, disrespecting a person, will not be tolerated (by the entire assemblage.) We should develop a response from the group that discourages such behavior in a non-condemning way. Perhaps having an authority such as the Corvallis Police Department or the County Sheriff, strictly in a violence prevention role, would serve greatly to legitimate and secure the process. Nevertheless, feathers need to be ruffled because things are getting funky up in here!
I am doing this because it is something that I have been looking for, for a while and haven’t been able to find yet. I have heard and seen examples, the radio show, Talk of the Nation, on NPR, for example, which is limited in the degree of human interaction and inclusion of viewpoints. Sometimes I think it is too radical and it will never work. People won’t be able to control their passions when provoked, what have you. But then I counter those thoughts with the fact that it boils down to a simple personal choice, that if we simply choose to follow the rules it can and will work. I hope to see something good develop but I think the details, such as what issues should be discussed and the format of the event/space, should be left up to the participants (or a group of organizers). The goal is to create only the context. I welcome any support and/or criticism, questions, comments, etc. Email me at tkn317071 at yahoo.com or call me at__.
In other words…A marketplace for ideas. A place for unity. A place for community. A credible disorder for an ailing system (see Bella, David. 2000). Something new, cool, interesting, important, challenging, Something we can do as a body of people that doesn’t cost anything but our own time, interest and effort.