The Dodd Human Rights Impact hosted a discussion Wednesday called “Democracy and Community Dialogue.” Hosted over Zoom between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., the discussion featured multiple hosts leading break-out groups to talk about an assortment of topics relating to American democracy.
“I think it was a matter of being aware and paying attention to what each leader was doing,” an anonymous student, who spoke about their experience voting for the first time in the 2020 presidential election, said.
One activity that participants brought up during the dialogue focused on having guests describe their policy positions on issues, such as guns and the environment, by writing a common word or phrase.
One of the participants commented that the activity helped dismantle people’s pre-existing beliefs on harmful narratives – such as climate change skepticism and the idea that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens – so that everyone could get on one common ground.
Participants were also asked to write down what they think are the biggest barriers to moving beyond polarization and partisan rancor in our democracy.
Another student mentioned that these barriers stem from a failure to create a civil discourse — more specifically, an inability to actively listen and accept those who think differently than us, leading to a lack of solidarity.
The next topic that was brought up was ways to combat polarization and build a more robust and responsive democracy, locally and nationally.
“As a community and institution, we can create such opportunities and spaces to bring together members of the community for such difficult dialogues,” an anonymous student said. This person also suggested seeking out spaces and opportunities to be open and listen to those who disagree with them.
As the discussion came to a close, each group facilitator listed topics that were mentioned in each of their breakout sessions. Some of the topics mentioned included toxic political discourse, the inability to listen and not having honest and open communication.
Some of the suggested solutions ranged from stating that the University of Connecticut must challenge lies and falsehoods through evidence, to revisiting the U.S. Constitution to be more supportive of civic dialogue.
“I believe today’s dialogue effectively brought to light the challenges that U.S. democracy has faced and endured — such as rising tensions, polarization, extremism and misinformation — while highlighting the value of all individuals, communities and institutions in defending democratic values,” second-semester political science major Avi Uihlein said.
Uihlein went on to mention how during the event, he had discussed the importance of embracing the principle of dignity in politics. This includes ensuring affordable healthcare, creating new jobs in America and fostering peace with foreign powers.
If you are interested in attending future events sponsored by the Dodd Human Rights Impact, they will be hosting a virtual seminar with Michael Rubin titled “Social Cohesion And Community Displacement in Armed Conflict” over Zoom on Feb. 2 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.