If I can find common ground with women in California, maybe there's hope for DC

The Alabama/California Conversation Project is a collaboration between AL.com and Spaceship Media, a journalism nonprofit that facilitates engagement between communities at odds. Since Dec. 14, a group of about 25 women from Alabama who supported Trump and 25 women from California's San Francisco Bay Area who supported Clinton have been in nearly constant conversation. Jane Walker, from Hartselle, Alabama, is one of those women. 

By Jane Walker, a CPA in Hartselle, Alabama. She works with small clinics on Medicare/Medicaid EHR compliance. She is married to Alan Walker. They have four children and three grandchildren.

A few weeks ago I joined an online conversation with women like me, Alabamians who voted for Trump, and a group of women from California who had voted for Clinton. The agreement going in was that the conversation would be civil and I believe we all did our best, though sometimes the moderators had to remind us of that.  

We all -- both Trump supporters and Clinton supporters --  have been demonized by the media teams of the other side, and many of us have unfortunately come to believe those characterizations. Maybe we wanted to believe them? Maybe we wanted to believe them because if we do, we can feel better about not taking the time to understand who the other side really is and why they disagree with us.

The exchanges I've had in the Alabama/California Conversation Project are different from the ones I have had with my liberal friends and family members. In this group, there has been a commitment to remain at the table. Because we have continued to converse, even when it is hard, we are starting to see that maybe they are not the elitist controlling snobs that we thought they were. I hope that they are seeing that just because we disagree, just because we supported the candidate that we believe stands for a rejection of increasing federal government power and promotion of freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly, does not mean that we support racism, xenophobia and misogyny.

I wonder if the fact that we started as strangers has allowed us to listen better and speak more openly about the things that matter to us? I hope that we will continue to converse. I hope that we will continue to listen. I hope that we will not walk away when it gets uncomfortable. I hope that we will not stop listening just because we don't like the vocabulary of those with whom we are trying to connect. I hope we will not resort to character assassination or insult to devalue the opinions of those with whom we disagree.

Perhaps this sort of conversation can start to happen in other places? Maybe it can happen in DC?  Maybe those we have elected to lead us can follow our example? Maybe they can sit down at the table and start to talk to one another and listen to one another?

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