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Reflecting on ways to bring people to the table

“A community gathering place”

It’s been hard to hope. Beginning with the 2020 election in November, and then the Electoral College vote in December, and then the official electoral vote count in January 2021, and then the inauguration on January 20, each was an opportunity to hope. Each was its own shining opportunity for a shift toward a positive, more hopeful direction.

Yet consider the Derek Chauvin case, and the continued killing by law enforcement—the very people who are sworn to protect and serve—and the violence against our Asian brothers and sisters, and the epidemic of mass shootings that our nation continues to experience, and 43 states putting forward voter suppression laws —and the pandemic. It’s been hard to hope.

When I was a project manager in high tech, a  teammate accused me of always wearing “rose-colored lenses.” It was odd, considering I always felt like I was walking a fine line between telling people it would take longer than they were estimating, and trying to encourage them to complete tasks by due dates they themselves gave me. I can tell you I have misplaced my rose-colored lenses, and I struggle every day. Because it’s been hard to hope.

…when I talk about it with people… I call it a “community gathering place doing business as a brewpub.”

As an engineer by education, I feel like I’m more a pragmatist than an optimist, so I think of these musings as a pragmatic endeavor, as opposed to a dark or pessimistic outlook. To that end, I revisited the Real Work article I wrote in January, just five days before the insurrection at the US capitol, an event instigated and inflamed by the Big Lie. The piece proposed that the “real work” ahead of us is to bring to the table the people who voted for Trump; to find in such discussions something to work towards, something to give hope.

In terms of this “real work” I haven’t made much progress. I have been looking for ways to understand the people who voted against Biden and normalcy; those who continue to buy into the Big Lie; those who maintain that “Q” is going to save them. I had a conversation about this mindset with a very good friend, a psychiatrist I’ve known since childhood. What was intriguing about that conversation was watching her analytical process; one that appealed to my inner engineer, and might offer a starting point for some discussions around “the real work”—a potential source of hope.

In the grand scheme of things, a discussion between two friends seems small, but it might lead to something bigger. As an example, I heard an interview on NPR with Romina Puga, a young woman who started a show for children called Club Mundo Kids. (If you haven’t heard of the show, I encourage you to check it out.

Ms. Puga sensed the struggles that children—especially Latinx children—were having with all of the negativity around immigration. She talked about challenges Latinx children face because Hispanic and Latin American culture in the US is not monolithic—in my words, not all Hispanics and Latinx are the same. She decided to start a show something like Sesame Street, but specifically designed for Spanish-speaking children living in the US.

I thought, “Okay, then! That’s one way to demonstrate the value in our differences while also making kids feel more comfortable with those differences.” And that triggered the thought that there is some adult equivalent out there, waiting for me to find it and make it happen, in order to give others hope.

So here’s where I am now.  I’ve been focusing on starting a brewpub in Rainier with my wife. I call it a brewpub, but when I talk about it with people – and what excites me is – I call it a “community gathering place doing business as a brewpub.” I think that could be the foundation for something pretty amazing.

In fact, it could be a place where “the real work” starts —where different members of our community actually come to a table where they might have conversations and even begin to discover the value in our differences. We have a ways to go to get it off the ground (I’m drafting the business plan now, setting up social media accounts, working on a website, etc.), but, like Club Mundo Kids, it gives me hope.

As this article was going to print, the Chauvin verdict was handed down. Like many others, I awaited the verdict with little hope. As National Guard members were deployed across the nation in anticipation of a “not guilty” verdict and the unrest that certainly would have followed, I remained riveted to the news, awaiting a small reward for our collective patience with a justice system that has too often failed us. Then it came. Former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts brought against him. While the verdict doesn’t represent justice for George Floyd, it does represent accountability for Derek Chauvin. At last! A glimmer, a spark, a nascent flicker of hope!

I’m grateful to Works in Progress for this opportunity to take stock and reflect on how I’m bringing opposing viewpoints to the table. While I feel remiss in not making much progress on the Real Work, I recognize those efforts can look very different and still have a potential impact.

Which makes me wonder…what’s going on in your corner of the world? Have you done anything towards the Real Work, towards understanding how to bring supporters of Biden’s opponent to the table? Do you know someone who has made progress on this, or an organization that has? Please share about that in the comments below. Seeing some of the work that’s happening could give us all hope.

Bill Fishburn is an IT project manager and supervisor with Washington State. He served as Chair of the Thurston Co. Democrats, and was president of the Hispanic Roundtable of South Sound.

One Comment

  1. L. Hunt May 18, 2021

    Thank you for this thoughtful read. Here is to hope!

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