What emotions or thoughts come to mind when you hear, “America Today?”
We asked several groups to answer that question. Here is a sampling:
• Average folks have lost control of the big parts of their lives.
• Congressional dysfunction.
• We will survive.
• Frustration over lack of willingness to work together for the greater good.
Those varied answers show that we have many different ideas about what is happening in the country, and we also have a variety of unhealthy emotions elevating the national blood pressure.
This exercise, suggested by social researcher Alice Rodgers, was the first phase of a Beacon Journal/Ohio.com journalism project that we are launching today.
Over the next several months we will explore the difficult social, political and economic issues America faces today to provide the foundation for a larger community discussion.
Joining us are Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, Rodgers, Heart to Heart Communications and others in the faith community, WKSU public radio and a number of community organizations.
You, the people of this community, will be at the center of this effort.
Our goal is to provide a place for you to share your feelings on America today as we search for solutions to the problems facing America today.
Most importantly, we hope to find a way to talk about America today in a civil, respectful manner.
The Bliss Institute plans to study our ability to have civil conversations on these topics. The faith community and others, including The Civic Commons of Northeast Ohio and Promoting Healthy Democracy of St. Paul, Minn., will lead community conversation.
How did this effort come about?
In weekly newsroom meetings last fall we discussed the positions and emotions behind both the occupy movement and tea party. Out of that grew a plan to write about tension in the community over tough issues.
Also last year, the Bliss Institute at UA, the Ralph Regula Center for Public Service at Mount Union University and the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University were working together on The Ohio Civility Project, studying the level of incivility in the community, the source of the tension and who you blame.
And meanwhile, Pastor Mark Ford at Love Akron had his own epiphany. While listening to a talk-show caller refer to the president as an “idiot,” he asked himself, “Why can’t we disagree respectfully?”
He helped initiate a meeting where the faith community, Bliss Institute and the Beacon Journal came together.
The realization at that session was that people need an opportunity to find common ground while respectfully disagreeing where there is no commonality.
So here is your invitation.
The Beacon Journal is looking for people from all walks of life who are willing to share their feelings about America today.
Initial conversations will be in confidence — your name will not be used unless, after we’ve talked, you decide to forgo the confidentiality.
We will use these conversations to report on America today and where America is going.
If you’re interested, send us an email or letter.
Doug Oplinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3750.