Bring It to the Table: One Mother’s Search for Civility in the U.S. is a new interactive media project by award-winning filmmaker Julie Winokur that aims to showcase how encouraging nonpartisan dialogue about politics can allow individuals to better understand their own views and those of others.
Winokur is the Executive Director of Talking Eyes Media, a “non-profit that strives to stimulate public dialogue and advocate for positive social change on the strength of our work,” according to their website.
Winokur’s latest project, Bring It to the Table, hopes to help break down hyper-partisanship in America by encouraging open, tolerant dialogue between people with different political views.
Bring It consists of a series of interviews with individuals who hold vastly different political views from all over the country. They discuss relevant political issues such as immigration, welfare and the economy while sitting at a small table using a yellow flower to represent their ideological alignment from right (conservative) to left (liberal).
Winokur said she was inspired to create Bring It after her 17-year old son told her that she was the most intolerant person he knew when it came to politics.
“When he told me that I wasn’t really listening and engaging with people who I didn’t agree with, I thought it was a wakeup call, so I decided to travel the country with a small table and sit down and invite people to talk politics with the sole intention of listening and learning how to listen,” Winokur said.
Winokur was inspired to share what she learned about listening with others.
“I’m of the mindset that making a healthy society begins with how we deal on the ground level person to person and we can’t expect our leaders to lead us well if when in reality we aren’t functioning as a healthy community,” Winokur said.
Winokur also hopes that her film will cause people to begin analyzing their own views.
“When you start listening you start to understand yourself better and you end up actually doing your homework. We all have beliefs that are ingrained to the degree that you accept your own beliefs without really examining them,” Winokur said.
The project also uses an app to analyze the political beliefs of the audience before and after the screening in order to determine the effect of the presentation.
“What we’ve been doing is really trying to take the temperature of the audience and see where they’re coming from when they enter the room, if they’ve changed their opinion at all during the presentation,” Winokur said.
Winokur has observed a troubling trend in American politics and the dialogue surrounding it.
“I think people are somehow getting more provincial in their mindset, and so that’s why I think a project like Bring It is so important, we live in a multicultural, ideologically diverse country and it’s one of the things that makes us great,” Winokur said.
Winokur faced some challenges while making the movie, largely due to the taboo surrounding open political discussion in America.
“It shouldn’t be that when you say to somebody let’s talk about something related to politics, they should not want to silence you and walk away,” Winokur said.
Winokur said that one of the most interesting individuals she talked to was a conservative talk show host from Arizona who spoke about his experience being raised by a single mother who didn’t accept any form of public welfare, partly because his story stood in such an interesting juxtaposition to another man’s who said he probably would not be where he is in life without having received public assistance growing up.
“Those two gentlemen in particular made a big impression on me in terms of personalizing the whole conversation around public welfare and the arguments for and against public assistance,” Winokur said.
Winokur said that government institutions in this country have become corrupted.
“Where would we be without people who were willing to sit down and draw up rules by which we live? It’s gotten so removed from that rather communal, common good intention, now it’s about money and power and influence and personalities,” Winokur said.
In addition to learning how to listen and encourage open dialogue about politics and ideas, Winokur hopes that the students who attend the screening will take away a belief that they can influence our government system.
“I saw a lawn sign in my neighborhood, that said terrible politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote. I urge young people to exercise the power of your vote and to not despair that your vote doesn’t matter because it does matter. I can’t urge that enough, you can’t complain about the place you live if you didn’t actually do something to help change it,” Winokur said.
Bring It to the Table will be screened at the University of Connecticut on Tuesday Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Konover Auditorium.
Anna Aldrich is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.