According to the 2018 Civility in America poll by Weber Shandwick, 93 percent of the U.S. believes that incivility is a problem in our society, with most seeing it as rampant and getting worse. Incivility is smear campaigns, nasty Facebook fights, families divided across Thanksgiving tables or refusing to talk politics at all.

I’m a Mexican-American queer person with a liberal arts degree, and I fight for liberal causes. I feel hopeful when I go to progressive talks and rallies, and when Democrats win elections. But I know that every day we’re making progress, others are fighting to reverse it – maybe just as passionately.

I often don’t know why we disagree, but I don’t believe all conservatives are evil or stupid. I want to understand them, stop feeling frustrated and start feeling hopeful. Incivility begins when we think we could “never understand” the other “side” – it ends when we start trying to.

I’m writing to invite everyone to a Make Shift Coffee House, the most hopeful solution I’ve found. It brings people together face to face across political divides to learn from our differences and listen to each other, civilly and respectfully.

Each pop-up event includes a politically relevant topic, music and food to break the ice, neutral facilitation to draw out and unpack everyone’s beliefs and casual time to mingle. Last time, I ended up in a two-hour conversation with a libertarian couple afterward. With honest listening and respect, we can actually build relationships and trust across the aisle, and find solutions that are otherwise impossible.

The next Make Shift Coffee House is at 6 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Portland Public Library, on the topic of the presidency. I will be a liberal in the room. Tea partiers, socialists, longtime Mainers and new faces – I hope you are there, too.

Sydney Avitia-Jacques


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