Celebrate Differences

As a society, do we have the ability to suspend judgment, even for a moment, and listen to and consider an opposing point of view?

When I conduct diversity training, one of my objectives is to have people challenge their ability to temporarily suspend their beliefs and world views in order to entertain the beliefs and world views of others in a non-judgmental way. Most participants get it, or at least pretend to. Some, however, can't break away from the mental models that have shaped their thinking.

Consider the following excerpt from a playbill for the show The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas which premiered on Broadway in 1978. The story is not about sex, but about hypocrisy and how one person can generate a national controversy. Suddenly one person becomes a group who feels they have the right to tell you what to do and how to do it. They push agendas, opinions and mantras and make judgments. Assumptions are made without facts and opinions are broadcast in hopes of catching others attention. They don't want to start a conversation; they want to start a fire.

For the first time in 42 years, there was a wedding in my immediate family. It was a joyous occasion. As with any wedding, families blend, extend and grow. Diverse groups of people come together and celebrate. In this case, both grooms families and their friends came together for one of the best celebrations I’ve ever participated in. The only significant fact was that the couple starting their life together loved each. We all celebrated that love and learned a great deal about families, communities and culture.

Blinders remain on today regarding a vast number of social issues. These issues are forming the basis of our current national discourse. In this year of our presidential election are we capable of taking a moment to pause, suspend judgment, and have dialogue and discussion of the issues in a non-judgmental manner?

Thanks to Eric Schaeffer, Artistic Director of the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia for his insights and a great production.

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