TO THE EDITOR:
In our community there is a group of people who meet each week for a civil discourse about local, national and world events. Yes, I said “civil.” Who would believe it, right?
I facilitate this discussion group which is whimsically named the “Beaufort Culture Club.” It was an idea developed over coffee at Cru Café in Beaufort between me and a few other geeks, where instead of a club based on specific books, we would pick topics in history, philosophy, arts, culture, etc., and then learn about and discuss them together. Tres nerdy.
As we were preparing for our first meeting, 8 minutes and 46 seconds happened in Minneapolis. We decided that the cultural/historical focus of the group, at least for the time, would be the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, and the BLM movement and all its implications. We quickly arrived at a consensus that our discussions would be civil – no name-calling, abuse, shaming, ad hominem or ad feminem attacks, etc. We further agree that we do not advocate in any way for violence or destruction of property. We believe in civil discourse and neighborliness. We also believe in full respect people of any religion, race, background, gender, etc. When any of us is disrespected, so are we all. The American creed.
Over the course of the last 5 months we have explored many aspects of the local and national debates, with passion but not ran-cor. We have enlivened our meetings at times with music and drama. We have heard from local historians, politicians, activists and law enforcement. While there is no political litmus test to be part of our group, other than commitment to civil discourse, our membership tends to come from one end of the political spectrum. That is not required, however, and I freely admit to being a Libertarian, myself. (and former prosecutor) All are welcome.
The main point is the dialogue. The goal could perhaps be encapsulated as “rebuiliding democracy from the ground up.” There is a common belief amongst group members that our “leaders” in the public realm have not always inspired us. It is time for all of us to be leaders.
Our current project is what we call the “Atlantic Charter 2020.” Those of you who are historically minded may recall that Churchill and Roosevelt began planning for the post World War II world as early as 1939, and ultimately worked with other allies to promulgate the Atlantic Charter in 1942. While some may consider it an act of chutzpah to promulgate a post-war plan for a war you have not yet won, to us the point then and now is to know not just what you are fighting against, but also what you are fighting FOR.
So, for OUR Atlantic Charter, we are currently discussing what we think civil discourse should look like, changes we might like to see in such areas as immigration policy, elections, balance of powers, trade policy, policing, race relations, war on poverty, war on drugs, etc. We are even including how we may wish to address the rifts that have arisen in families and friendships in the current political environment. We are starting these discussions before the election and with many things in doubt.
Yes, we disagree on some things, Many things. But we are still neighbors and community members and we sink or swim together. We in particular are the Beaufort Culture Club.
I write this to let my friends and neighbors know that civil discourse is still possible. If you are not having these kinds of community discussions where you live, start them. If you live near Beaufort, join us. We meet on Tuesdays, outside, behind Cru Café at 120 Turner Street, Beaufort. We are skipping election day, so our next meeting will be Tuesday, November 10th. Dress warmly.