An exercise in civil discourse

Dear Editor:

Many of us are frustrated with what’s happening (or not happening) in Washington these days. It is not only the polarization and paralysis, but most importantly, the lack of civility in the discourse and unwillingness to listen or attempt to understand before responding. Is it possible that what’s happening in our nation’s capital is a direct reflection of what’s occurring on the local level — or even in our personal attitudes such as strong impatience with our neighbors’ beliefs, lifestyle, or choices that differ significantly from ours? Could this be happening right here in our community?

As a group of area community members with diverse beliefs, we’d like to know this as well, so we have organized a casual, yet facilitated event called a Make Shift Coffee House ( Craig Freshley, who has facilitated dozens of these events, is going to help us explore our varying complex political and social views while discussing how the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights affect our lives — from guns, to voting, to immigration, to freedom of speech, to freedom to choose, states’ freedoms, etc. Conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, independents, Libertarians, Greens — all have different perspectives on what this document means and how it’s applied to our individual lives.

After the initial discussion led by Mr. Freshley, informal small groups of six to eight will explore aspects of this topic in more depth. Craig encourages everyone to speak from personal experience, get to their key beliefs, listen to understand, while avoiding personal criticism and making sure everyone at the table is heard. These are just simple guidelines for a couple of hours of meaningful conversation.

Make Shift Coffee House has successfully tackled diverse and difficult political issues throughout Maine, sometimes attracting over 100 people to the events. We are bringing this to Ellsworth to support our community with a public event on Feb. 10 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Ellsworth High School cafeteria. Complimentary beverages and snacks will be available, as well as some live mellow background music. Make Shift Coffee House is free and everyone is welcome. You are welcome, even if just to learn more about our Constitution, your neighbors or how you handle contrary opinions.


Shep Erhart


On behalf of the Make Shift Coffee House committee

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