blog for kc september project

As part of the KC September Project, Iím looking for thirty volunteers from the Kansas City area to write one blog entry each for a ěKC September Projectî blog, one for each day of the month.
What kind of guidelines should you follow in writing your entry? The September Project site has this to say: “Share and discuss your ideas about democracy, citizenship, and patriotism through public talks, roundtables, and performances” and “The September Project is a collection of people, groups, and organizations working to create a day of engagement, a day of conversation, a day of democracy.” I think readers’ needs would be best served by you sharing your thoughts about, for example, key terms like “democracy,” “citizenship,” and “patriotism.” But there are also other key terms that are at stake in American public discourse right now: “freedom,” “terrorism,” “strength,” “rights,” “courage,” “marriage,” and “leadership,” to name just a few. Take a look at the much-blogged NY Times graphic comparing “The Words Speakers Use” from the two conventions.
Consider the following some very gentle suggestions, rather than hard and fast rules: The best writers have a distinctive voice that comes through in their writing, and I don’t want to suggest anything that would change the nature of that voice in your writing for this project. I would like to see all of us be as persuasive as we can to as wide a range of audience members as we can, and this means avoiding polemic and ranting (and if you’ve read my blog long enough, you know that I’ve done my share of both though I’ve started moving away from that). If our goal is “conversation,” then we must leave room for other voices. When public discourse relies upon vituperation, a large part of the audience just automatically tunes out. Start by attacking gay men and lesbians and you’ve already lost the die-hard liberals; use terms like “radical right” or “wingnut” and there go the conservatives. Your audience becomes smaller and smaller until you’re in the oft-mentioned “echo chamber,” talking only to people who already think like you. And what’s the point in that?
Political candidates have a vested interest in attacking their opponents, not in listening to them and perhaps being persuaded by them. Citizens, however, have a vested interest in being persuaded by the best ideas and proposals. I would argue that these interests are diametrically opposed to each other. I am more interested in creating an environment that fosters conversations among citizens about ideas of substance. I am not interested in creating an environment in which we argue about the candidates or (worse yet) repeat the talking points to each other that are handed down to us from the candidates’ campaign managers.
We are so divided in America right now that I believe it’s time we start to work on finding or establishing common ground. This is not about civility or “pinky-in-the-air” manners; it’s about getting as many people as possible to agree on something, at the very least to listen to each other. (You can see that my reading Deborah Tannen has influenced my thinking about this.)
Please keep these suggestions in mind as you write about whatever it is you write about. I will not reject anything that you send in to me. If a wide range of political positions is represented in a thoughtful way, then I will consider this project a success. I would, however, like you to avoid endorsing or atttacking particular candidates or parties, because I believe that is the quickest route to turning an exchange of ideas into a shouting match. People automatically respond to you in a particular way if they figure out you are for one side or the other. Discuss ideas instead, however, and I believe you have a greater chance at a rewarding conversation.
Please send me your entries via email as soon as possible, and I will post them to the blog day-by-day.
If you know other bloggers who might be interested in participating, please email them directly and forward them the above suggestions.
I also hope that you will be able to make it to some of the events taking place on 9/11.
Thanks again for your involvement in this project, and enjoy your weekend!

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One thought on “blog for kc september project

  1. KC September Project Blog

    At George’s request, I volunteered to contribute. The end result, entitled Ponder With Me can be found here (the entry for Monday, September 13th, 2004)….

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