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Seek First to Understand…
Maria Ramos-Chertok Maria Ramos-Chertok
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco, CA
Wednesday, November 11, 2020


It has taken me a while to even attempt to put words on the page.  I’m numb, which is one of the ways I cope with distress.  This past week, I’ve gotten texts from friends and family across the nation sharing celebratory words and emojis.  I’ve responded in kind.  Some have been more inquisitive, asking open-endedly, “How are you feeling?”  For those people I’ve been more forthright:  I can’t focus, and I feel distanced from my mind and vaguely terrified.  

I have to be honest.  Intellectually, I know there is reason for jubilation, and I admire the people in the streets who found their dance groove.  Emotionally, though, I can’t connect to the joy.  I am stuck, instead, on the fact that 70 million people voted to re-elect the 45th president even after experiencing these last four years.  They voted, I suspect because they actually liked what they saw and that has me scared. 

On the Sunday before election day, in fact, a caravan of trucks drove through our neighboring town – Marin City – which is home to the largest African American population in Marin County.  A longtime resident described it to me: “It was like having the KKK in my living room.”  Her daughter sobbed uncontrollably after seeing the six-block long caravan of trucks and one fire engine honking and waving Trump signs, there to intimidate under the guise of exercising their First Amendment rights.

This morning I heard Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee Chair, on the radio.  He summed it up perfectly: “Our first priority on election day was defeating Trump.  Our second priority is defeating Trumpism, which predates Trump, some would say by 400 years.”  

I’m taking my skill in conflict resolution, anti-racist training, and coaching, and I am asking myself some questions:

  • Conflict resolution:  Where can I seek first to understand, then to be understood?
  • Anti-racist training:  How do I work to create a world where Black Lives Matter?
  • Coaching:  What is my next smallest step?

I returned to Adrienne Maree Brown’s book, Emergent Strategies, and re-read her summary of Margaret Wheatly’s work in Leadership and the New Science.  One key learning from Margaret’s work is that “everything is about relationships, critical connections.” One of Adrienne’s core principals is that “Small is good, Small is all.”

I feel the need to somehow humanize the people I cannot accept.  Certainly, that is not all of my work, but it has to be a part of it. To accomplish this, I am launching a pilot fellowship across the political divide. This space will not be a forum for persuading others to adopt a different viewpoint or as a soapbox for pontification. Instead, I am seeking twelve people who have an interest in listening and sharing. What I learned from years of mediation work is that people in conflict resist understanding another’s viewpoint because they fear that understanding suggests agreement. Can we understand without agreement?  Does doing so matter? I am curious to find out.

Here is a short description:  Seek First to Understand:  Fellowship Across the Political Divide

Description:  In this pilot program, twelve adults from across the political spectrum will come together to explore conflict styles, identify core values, engage in storytelling, and learn about differing perspectives with the goal of exploring how relationship-building works when people hold widely differing (and often opposing) political viewpoints.  

Could we possibly humanize and understand one another?  To what end, I’m not yet certain.  Nor am I certain that this is the best use of my time.  I’m open to hearing your thoughts on this idea.

If you can think of anyone who would be open to exploring this, please contact me.  It’s one my next smallest steps.

Photo by Jason Leung on www.unsplash.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Maria Ramos-Chertok
Dateline: Mill Valley, CA United States
Direct Phone: 415-388-5383
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