Isn’t it time to bury the hatchet?

It’s time to take a blockhead to lunch – and listen to what he has to say.

  • Jeff Golden

 

Do you want things to change? Are you agitated or frustrated or just plain bored with the civic conversation in your community and the country at large?

I am. And I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to take a blockhead to lunch.

We keep hearing that civic life these days is deeply polarized, and it is. Why is that? Because we fundamentally disagree on the basic issues, or because we’ve let shouting, blaming and scapegoating become the way we do politics? Is it because our beliefs clash at the very core, or because the frenzy and fear purveyed by our crassest media and worst politicians have made us desperate for a set of beliefs and like-minded people to cling to, however incomplete or flawed they may be?

Probably some of both, and maybe more. But since most of the current ideological and philosophical debate (if what we’ve been doing deserves a word that polite) is a proven dead end, perhaps it’s time we started looking harder for little cracks in the wall where a ray of light might shine through. What if, instead of battling opinion with opinion and trying to beat back their dogma with our dogma, we spent some time probing beneath the dogma? What if we listened to the music instead of just the words?

I hereby declare May to be Take a Blockhead to Lunch Month. Participation is easy. As soon as you finish this column, take a moment to think of someone you know who cares about what’s happening in the world, and whose opinions differ sharply from yours. Those opinions can be about anything: President George Bush, the war in Iraq, immigration, evolution, abortion, educational testing, Hillary Clinton — pick your flash point.

Then call him or her to announce that it’s Take a Blockhead to Lunch Month and that he’s the lucky blockhead you’ve chosen; if you think there may be a more diplomatic way to phrase the invitation, have at it. Then go get lunch together, or breakfast, dinner, coffee, tea, a beer. After you’ve ordered and settled in, ask your dining partner plainly and respectfully what she thinks or feels about issues that seem to divide you.

There are just a couple of rules. One: You have to ask real questions, not simply spout off opinions with question marks stuck onto the end. We all know how that works. Despite what we learned in high school grammar classes, sentences beginning with "Oh, come on now, do you actually believe ..." don’t qualify as questions.

Two: Throughout the course of the conversation, aim to listen at least four times more than you talk. Use your talking time to ask more questions. Your goal is to better understand what your blockhead means, and exactly how her peculiar opinions were formed.

If what he says pushes your buttons, and if you’re busting to answer back — and if you’re a person inclined to do this exercise at all, you probably will be — stretch yourself to listen even more. (If you are any good at doing this, I’d personally appreciate some helpful tips.) If you’re just dying to express your own opinions, you might ask your blockhead if you can be his or her blockhead. Then it will be your turn to be taken to lunch, and you can reverse roles.

The worst that will happen is that you’ll find out you were right: Your lunch partner really is a complete blockhead who must be living on another planet.

Then again, you might be deeply surprised. You might catch a lasting insight that you can’t even imagine right now. And who knows what could that lead to? You might even be encouraged to try this again, and find a second blockhead to take to lunch. That should be easy. There are plenty of us out here. We’re all in a learning process. Please let us know how your conversation went at blockheadtolunch.com. Thanks.

Jeff Golden is a writer and host of the Jefferson Exchange on Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking two full time community organizers to join our team. Positions can be based in Garfield County, Montrose...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Join our team as the Association's Executive Director. Working closely with the Board of Directors, take ANWS to the next level of professionalism by managing...
  • FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa is hiring a Development Director who will have the overall responsibilities of leading our fundraising programs and reports directly to our...
  • WATER RIGHTS/ADJUDICATION BUREAU CHIEF
    Job Overview: Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that Montana's land and water resources provide benefits for present and future...
  • CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATOR
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is seeking a Climate Change Coordinator to play a lead role in shaping our programs to make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...