July 2021


Welcome to CivicList, an independent newsletter to build community and uplift voices! In this edition I include:

  • Ways for you to take action today
  • A video of my Braver Angels discussion with my Republican cousin Kathy on the topic of statue removal, and my reflections on the experience.
  • A bit of art. 
  • A quote by Dwight Eisenhower.


First, Gratitude 

I’m grateful for my cousin Kathy, a Republican political strategist who generously participated in a Braver Angels Family Divides dialogue with me this month. Although we sometimes see things differently, Braver Angels offered tactics to help us explore our differences, which helped deepen our relationship to accommodate political disagreement.

We discussed the decision to remove certain statues from civic places and ended up finding some common ground. Watch the discussion and read my reflections below.

Take Community Action TODAY
  • Hold the House & the Senate for Democrats: Act with SwingLeft to move “from resistance to persistence”
  • Three ways to take action to support democracy: 
      1) CALL your senators now and tell them to
         support the For the People Act 
      2) WRITE to your Senator to support the For the 
         People Act
      3) DONATE to Martin Luther King Jr.’s family’s
         initiative to support voting rights #ForJohn on
         the anniversary of John Lewis’s death
  • Tell your Congressperson to prioritize health care, clean energy, and education-- not weapons.
  • Save your friends’ and families’ lives: get vaccinated now
  • Ready to run for office? Do it with New American Leaders
  • Learn more about Black-led organizing in NYC, directly support this work, and strengthen your own leadership on July 27th with the North Star Fund
  • Take a course on The Science of Generosity: Do Good…Feel Good
  • Get a funded NYU-Wagner fellow to work at your pro-democracy or social justice organization (contact leadinitiative@nyu.edu)
  • Tell Your U.S. Senators: Pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
  • Live on Earth? Put your investments & retirement into environmentally friendly mutual funds like these.
What’s missing? Send me your civic action opportunities: matt@civiclist.org

Bridging Divides with Kathy Camp

My cousin Kathy, a Republican political strategist, graciously agreed to engage in a discussion moderated by Braver Angels co-founder Bill Doherty. We discussed our views on the often polarizing topic of civic statue removal. Bill offered tactics for us to be better listeners and find common ground. The discussion was followed by reflections by a panel of "red" and "blue" Braver Angels observers. Watch the video here and read my reflections below.

Synopsis of the discussion

Kathy and I both "came in hot" in the first round of discussion (which starts at 15:36), the way debaters from the left and from the right on TV might, exhaustively issuing all of our opinions at once.

Kathy said that taking down statues can be a slippery slope, is erasing history, and that it's up to families to teach their children about the meaning of a statue. She argued that the left assigns too much meaning to statues, which are inanimate objects that represent a point in history.

I argued that we're surrounded by reminders of primarily White figures, that many of these statues were put in place to tell only that group's story, and the statues' presence subsumes a fuller discussion of history: history isn't being erased, it hasn't been fully written. I argued for a tearing down of assumptions and for a true telling of the story of racism in America.

Bill then offered three ways to bridge divides (at 39:48)

  1) Start soft
  2) Discuss one point at a time; hand the ball back
  3) Listen for areas you agree on

Kathy and I implemented these tactics in the second round (which starts at 43:12). It felt different and better. Although I still wanted to "win," I felt less anxious about getting all of my points across, and was more open to hear what Kathy had to say. We agreed that the statues represent "who's heard" and how they can cause or stifle debate.

We came up with some possible solutions, including having education and reflection about the meaning of statues, adding statues of Black heroes in civic spaces, and perhaps making statues out of biodegradable materials as a way to honor life's impermanence.

"Not looking to win, looking to explore"

I often post workshops offered by Braver Angels. Since I hold myself to do everything that I post in CivicList, I felt it was time to try it out. I was moved by the Angels' call to explore, rather than win.

I thought it was a worthwhile practice, because it helped Kathy and me be vulnerable; whereas family debates tended to be stoic, and preempted deeper exploration of politics and ourselves, having the structured dialogue helped us open up a bit and not be afraid to discuss a sensitive topic. As a result, I think we prioritized our relationship over the politics of the day, and grew closer.

"Seeing each other as s citizen, not a side"

I hope to remember to implement Bill's tactics when discussing complex political issues with folks, because maintaining and improving relationships is the most important thing we can do for each other in our short time on this planet.

Not just one guy. Photo by Aliya Schneider
A Quote...

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Dwight Eisenhower