By Sukhayl Niyazov, independent author and volunteer at Braver Angels. Reposted from: AllSides.com
Hollywood has long had a strongly liberal reputation. But as America looks to heal from a divisive election, opportunities for depolarization may come from surprising places, including Hollywood. A recent project spearheaded in part by Chris Evans, the star who plays Captain America, is seeking to reduce political division.
Evans recently announced the founding of A Starting Point, a bipartisan civic engagement platform featuring a database of short videos. It kicked off in July of this year. In these videos, elected officials from all sides of the political spectrum explain their views on a variety of issues: from healthcare and the economy to social justice and foreign policy. The aim of the website is to “create a little more connectivity” between politicians and citizens.
Evans strongly supports this effort while also publicly showing his support for Joe Biden. He said in a video on Twitter, “an engaged electorate will create a government [that] more accurately reflects who we are and what we need.”
A Starting Point intends to improve the state of U.S. political discourse by exposing Americans to diverse voices in a non-partisan way. Politicians are able to clearly articulate their views and encourage constituents to become more engaged in politics. Ideally, this bridges gaps between politicians and their constituents, and between Republicans and Democrats.
By Shahreen Hossain of IssueVoter. Reposted from IssueVoter.org.
A non-cliché guide to bringing wellness into the political sphere.
What is this often-used term “mindfulness”?
It is the ability to fully be present and engaged in any given moment. Studies have shown mindfulness lowers ruminative thinking, reduces stress, and lessens emotional reactivity while it boosts memory and focus.
The etymology of the word “political” comes from polis, which is a community. As Aristotle framed it, human beings are political animals. It means each of us belongs to communities and together we aspire to make the world a better place.
“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”-Aristotle
The turmoil that coronavirus has exacerbated is shining a spotlight on previously under-discussed topics such as race, inequality, and the criminal justice system. Yet, a critical source of systemic inequality is still not getting attention -- the fundamentally unfair practice of prison gerrymandering.
There are several clear patterns in the prison population. First, it is disproportionately people of color. As of 2017, over 60% of individuals in prison were people of color. Black men are 6 times more likely and hispanic men are 2.7 times to be incarcerated as white men. In that same vein, black and hispanic women make up 60-67% of the female prison population.
Another important aspect to note about the prison population is their socioeconomic status. Incarcerated people of all genders, races, and ethnicities earn much less prior to imprisonment than their non-incarcerated counterparts. In fact, the American inmate population is dramatically concentrated at the lowest ends of the national income distribution. Finally, prisoners suffer from high rates of coronavirus, mental illness, addiction problems, histories of abuse, and the list goes on.
Reposted from CivicHealthProject.org
As Election Week 2020 looms, many of us are mentally preparing for worst-case scenarios: a drawn-out result, a contested outcome, a flaring-up of violent skirmishes. Under any scenario, and no matter who wins, we already know this to be true: millions of Americans will be elated, and millions of Americans will be dejected. We saw the first movie, and the sequel promises to be a real dog.
It may feel like our divisions can only be hardened in the wake of the upcoming, contentious election cycle. How could it be any other way? After all, our opinions have certainly hardened, our feelings towards one another have hardened, and the positions of our elected leaders have hardened as well.
But what if … what if … the wake of this election could instead provide an opportunity for softening the divisions that have caused so much damage to our national psyche? What if we could find our way back to each other, simply because we have become so fatigued with the level of animosity and rancor? What if it turns out that we did some hard work these past few years, in order to better understand and appreciate why fellow citizens might see the world differently than we do? What if we have learned a thing or two about the forces that aim to divide us along political fault lines, and we have collectively decided, “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”
By Sarah Berlin, Program Director of the Voting Information Project. Reposted from: Democracy Works
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have expanded access to voting by mail in order to provide voters with another option for safely casting their ballots. As part of that expansion, more states than ever are planning to utilize mail ballot drop boxes for the General Election. Concerns about whether the US Postal Service will be able to deliver mail ballots in time to be counted has brought additional attention to using mail ballot drop boxes. Below are answers to commonly asked questions about what mail ballot drop boxes are, who can use them, and how they ensure your vote will get counted.
WHAT IS A MAIL BALLOT DROP BOX?
A mail ballot drop box is a secured, locked box where voters can return absentee or mail ballots in signed and sealed envelopes, rather than putting it through the mail. Drop boxes are typically placed outside of public buildings like libraries, schools, and county offices, but sometimes they can be inside of buildings. Ballots are regularly retrieved from the boxes by election office staff.
Reposted from NonprofitVOTE.org.
This will be an election like none other, but rest assured, it will go on. Thankfully, our democracy is resilient. We’ve held elections in wartime, during the Great Depression, and amidst the 2018 flu pandemic. We can do this! We will do this. However, central to holding a representative election safely amidst this pandemic is the dramatic expansion of mail-in voting.
To be clear, this is not a new, untested voting method. Our nation has allowed mail-in voting since the Civil War. As recently as the record-breaking 2018 election, 25% of all ballots cast nationwide were cast by mail. Many of these mail-in ballots came from Vote-at-Home (aka Vote by Mail) states like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, and more recently California and Utah. But it also came from states across the nation where absentee mail-in voting is just common, such as Florida where a third of votes cast in 2018 were cast by mail.
As states expand use of mail-in ballots amid COVID-19, we could see well over half of all votes cast this year being cast by mail. So, if you’re a voter new to this method of voting, how do you make sure your mail-in ballot counts? If you’re a nonprofit, library, college, or civically-minded business, how do you make sure your staff and community can make their voice heard?
By Jack Byrd Jr., President of the Interactivity Foundation. Reposted from: InteractivityFoundation.org
How can we help students become breakthrough facilitators?
Cathy began her office hour visit with some hesitation, “Dr. Sperios, I didn’t want to sound like I’m grade-grubbing, but I don’t understand my latest discussion facilitation grade. You wrote on the evaluation sheet that I did much better, but my grade was lower than the first time.”
“Cathy, do you have your syllabus? Let’s take a look, so I can explain,” responded Sperios. “See the grade section. I made a point that your facilitation grades will be progressive. Notice that the round one facilitation is based on what I refer to as facilitation mechanics. You’ll see those listed as:
- Note taking
- Involving everyone
- Managing the discussion time
- Managing the flow
“You did much better on these aspects of facilitation this time.
“Now look at the round two criteria:
- Framing the discussion questions
- Elevating the discussion through your discussion interactions
- Having a discussion strategy that goes beyond the obvious
- Helping the group achieve breakthrough insights
“You’re a gymnast. What kind of score would you get if you were perfect on a low difficulty routine?”
Reposted from NonprofitVote.org
August 28, 1963 was 57 years ago.
However, as we watch the news and look out our windows at untold thousands filling the streets, arm-in-arm for racial justice, that date and the famous March on Washington that it commemorates, feels like yesterday, or maybe even tomorrow.
It’s easy to look at the black-and-white footage from that day, seeing younger versions of John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr.,Daisy Bates, and mistake it for ancient history. It’s easy to forget what America truly looked like on that day for millions of its citizens.
In 1963, it was still normal to disenfranchise Black people looking to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Through poll taxes, literacy tests and basic intimidation, the voices of Black America were routinely suppressed and undercounted at the local, state and federal level.
In 1963, a woman could be denied service at a bar; a lesbian could be fired if her sexuality was revealed; a Sikh man could be turned away at the local store — all within legal bounds. In 1963, Whites-Only spaces were still legal.
This is the year Michael Jordan was born. This is the year “Doctor Who” premiered.
So what happened in 1963 to cause the nation to reflect upon its nature?
There is certainly no one thing that sparked the flame. What we understand as “The Civil Rights Movement” —the series of local demonstrations by thousands of unknown activists to verify the promise of the constitutional amendments
passed in the wake of the Civil War, was already decades old in the 1960s. We’d already seen (some) women gain the right to vote and the legal inclusion of Black people as citizens, though not yet equipped with all their unalienable rights.
By Logan Albright, Head Writer and Sound Engineer at Free the People. Reposted from: FreethePeople.org
In their eagerness to “do something” and appear to be taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, politicians, pundits, and ordinary citizens alike have stubbornly refused to admit to any costs or tradeoffs resulting from the government’s policy response to the virus. As all thinking people know, every policy has a downside, and sensible governing should involve weighing those downsides carefully against any potential or actual benefits. But in the case of lockdowns, we’re expected to believe that if everyone will just do as they’re told, everything will be fine, and that there’s no other option besides that which has been aggressively pursued by mayors and governors across the nation.
But these downsides do exist, and they can be extremely serious, as I recently learned through personal experience.
Recognizing the limits of anecdotes, I’d nevertheless like to share a story from my own life to illustrate a few of the ways in which sweeping, reflexive lockdowns can negatively impact real people.