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Our goal at the Center for the Study of Liberty is to give you the content and confidence to engage in civil conversations about issues that matter to you and your community. We believe those conversations are vital to the building and maintenance of a free society, but we know they aren’t easy.

Disagreement is uncomfortable

Have people who are close to you expressed their opinions on the death of George Floyd or the protests and violence that followed, and have some of those opinions been at odds with your own? Last week, I had several discussions with people I know well who said things with which I strongly disagree. That’s not unusual, but the subject matter was far more sensitive than the kinds of disagreements I typically have with people in my life.

At least twice, I seriously considered excusing myself from conversations because I was so uncomfortable with what was being said (and, based on the faces of some of the other participants in those discussions, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone). I thought to myself, “I don’t want to argue. This won’t be the last time I see these people and I don’t want our future interactions to be tense.”

 

Trust engenders honesty

When people trust one another, they’re comfortable being candid and sharing honest opinions. While that can bring people together, it can also result in serious and uncomfortable disagreement. We know we’ll continue to interact with those closest to us, so we may prefer to end those conversations rather than prolonging the discomfort or risk destroying a relationship that is important to us.

But those uncomfortable conversations are the ones that have the most potential for impact precisely because of those relationships. If we can’t talk openly about race and injustice with those we trust, despite the discomfort, we can hardly expect to talk productively with those whom we hardly know. Why should strangers listen to our opinions on difficult issues if those closest to us won’t?

 

We have the most potential for impact on those closest to us

In our recent podcast episode with Robert McNamara on economic liberty, I asked how a busy person who is overwhelmed by all the information about occupational licensing can hope to have an impact. Robert responded, in part:

…it’s easy for people to underestimate the impact they can have by just caring about this and raising their hand and saying, ‘I care,’ but that impact can be enormous….

Although our discussion was not about race, the use of government force, or free speech, I think the sentiment applies just as forcefully to the events of the past few weeks and the discussions you and those closest to you are undoubtedly having about these events. I hope you won’t excuse yourself from those conversations and I hope you will raise your hand and say, “I care,” no matter how uncomfortable that might be for you.

This week, we’re using our “5 more links” to share content from past guests commenting on topics that have recently been in the news. Perhaps you can share these links with those close to you and start some difficult conversations.

Trust me, I know how hard that can be and I know it carries the risk of damaging important relationships, but “let’s preserve our comfort” is hardly the most inspiring rallying cry for a free society.

5 more links worth your time

  1. Supreme Court asked to reconsider immunity available to police accused of brutality, Washington Post – Recent podcast guest and senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, Robert McNamara, is quoted in this article that details the qualified immunity cases that are under review by the Supreme Court.
  2. George Floyd’s Death Must Be a Catalyst for Accountability, Cato Institute – Clark Neily, vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute and a recent guest on Civil Squared Live, discusses “qualified immunity,” a legal doctrine that shields law enforcement (among others) from being held accountable for violating the rights of individuals. The United States Supreme Court has delayed a decision on eight cases under review that challenge the doctrine. The Cato Institute has been focused on eliminating qualified immunity for the past three years and has many resources available on this subject.
  3. Why “No Justice, No Peace” is a Conservative Principle, Center for the Study of Liberty blog – John Mozena, president of the Center for Economic Accountability and a past guest of our podcast, offers his perspective on the national conversation we are having about justice and why conservatives should support reforming our justice system.
  4. America’s Terrible Weekend, Reason podcast – Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor in chief of Reason whose live online event with the Center is available on our podcast, joins her colleagues for a weekly roundtable podcast to discuss the previous week’s headlines and events during the weekend of May 29-31. 
  5. The power of non-violence in the pursuit of truth, Braver Angels – John Wood, Jr. of Braver Angels, a previous guest on our podcast, speaks on a panel about racial healing and talks about the importance of building relationships across divides.

 

 

p.s. If you’ve got a political, ideological, or philosophical issue you’ve been considering, email me at civilsquared@studyliberty.org and I’ll work with my team to put together a list of articles, issues, and interesting points of view to share with you and others.

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