Organizer: The Village Square
Local patriotism is the best antidote for the rising tribal nationalism that's overtaking the Western World. Communities are the only ground where deep relationship takes root, where common cause and simple mutual respect grows, where you can grab a beer after work or borrow a cup of sugar. Localists don't become nationalists — they don't go on shooting sprees or die of opiate overdoses. They're just too darn busy. Local patriots know too many people who disagree with them politically to hate them or to build mail bombs for them.
Here is where "those people" don't look like the enemy, they look like us. Here is where we don't have to wait around for anyone in Washington to fix it, because they won't. It's even possible that the great lesson of our time is that we've been looking in the wrong direction for help for a very long time.
Location: St. John's Episcopal Church, 211 North Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301
Blades is co-founder of Living Room Conversations, which organizes gatherings designed to increase understanding and reveal common ground.
Thought experiment: What if all the leaders in Washington decided tomorrow that climate change was the No. 1 issue to address? Evidence suggests this would not be as helpful as many people think. Consider health care, a No. 1 issue for decades. How does the U.S. health care system stack up? It is the most expensive in the world per capita and it isn't even in the top 10 in terms of outcomes. The fact is, importance isn't the determining variable for achieving success. We need to be able to work together.
Weaving the fabric of our democracy locally and nationally is a massive challenge. The people behind Living Room Conversations are meeting that challenge by offering an open-source project that can be used by mobile users at the beach as easily as in a living room or library.
Sometimes we worry that our name may confuse people. Living Room Conversations aren't limited by location, geography or time zone. They are happening every day in churches, libraries, schools, book stores, city community centers and virtual conference spaces. These six-person, structured conversations are designed to be self-directed, easily accessible, and welcoming to a broad array of perspectives. The structure includes conversation agreements that support comfort and safety.