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Finding Common Ground seeks political understanding

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By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Do you believe there is a growing divide among your fellow citizens? Have you been feeling ridiculed or attacked for your political beliefs? Are you fearful about the future of our country? Have politics increased your level of anxiety?

If the answer was yes to any of these questions, not only are you not alone, but there is a group dedicated to the sole purpose of unearthing the reasons behind these things and trying to move forward.

Finding Common Ground is a community dialogue hosted by the Westwood-Walpole-Dedham League of Women Voters at the Westwood Public Library which allows everyone to voice their opinions uninhibited and uninterrupted.

“I’m still trying to understand what’s going on in my country,” Kevin Becker said. Becker is a psychologist and the person who first had the idea for this kind of group. “I reached out to the League of Women Voters and asked them if they would be willing to sponsor this kind of event, where people could safely come together and listen to each other in an effort to gain understanding about different political views.” Monday, July 17 was the second meeting of this group, and was attended by veterans and newcomers alike. “The model for this is based off of something called a peace circle, which are used in a variety of different ways: brainstorming, problem solving, creating new ideas and communities, resolving issues in communities,” Becker explained. “And the model for a peace circle is that everybody gets a chance to speak, everybody gets the same amount of time to speak.” Each person in attendance was given six minutes to speak, during which nobody could interrupt, ask questions, or make comments. In addition, the person speaking could not reference anyone else in the group directly or “call them out.” The point was that each person spoke from their own individual experience.

Each person in the circle was given the chance to talk about whatever he or she wanted. Some spoke about their backgrounds and where they came from, providing an explanation for their views now, while others simply spoke about current views and experiences. Topics such as the G20 Summit, healthcare, the economy and taxes, and immigrations were discussed, including many others.

“Listening is not the same as waiting to talk,” Becker said before the speaking began. “So please, when somebody is speaking, just listen. Don’t start forming your argument or counterpoint. Because we’re here to listen and find common ground, and the way to do that is really by listening to each other.”

The group’s next meeting will be held at the Westwood Public Library on Wednesday, August 23.

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