There’s been much talk lately about our divisions: old-timers vs newcomers; those with money vs those without; parents who love the Island’s youth programming vs those who would like to see change. Which is why we loved reading Lauren Blankstein’s essay about a deep and unexpected connection she and her daughter made with Islander Ena Shinnery, who passed away recently. The story speaks to how time together and an open, honest interest in each other’s lives can help bridge differences in race, age, economic standing, and the many other barriers that often seem to separate us.
In an interview last December, former President Barack Obama told Prince Harry, “One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases… On the internet, everything is simplified, and when you meet people face to face, it turns out they’re complicated, there may be somebody who you think is diametrically opposed to you when it comes to their political views, but you root for the same sports team.”
He’s right, of course. These divisions are not going to be resolved online. Walled off by computer screens and fake names, it’s too easy to offer up accusations and slurs when presented with a different opinion. The desire to get the last word can be all-consuming. The power to speak without witnessing the consequences of our words leaves little room for empathy.
If we want to build services that meet the needs of all Islanders, we must understand what those needs are – and who our neighbors are. We need to strive for real relationships with people who are different from us, not just racially or culturally, but in terms of sexual orientation, ability, and income. We need to feel comfortable talking about our differences, and across our differences. We need to start emphasizing community over competition.
In short, we need to create more face time with one another, so we connect at a human level to get people talking outside their usual social circles and start breaking down stereotypes.
We at The WIRE would like to help foster some of those discussions. We are currently working with other organizations to develop the first in what we hope will be a series of community events aimed at encouraging communication about issues important to the Island. If you’re interested in helping, please reach out to us.
We also know that there are many experiences on this Island that we know little about. We want to hear your stories. What is life on the Island like for you? What issues are we missing? Let’s start the conversation – in person. We’ll buy the coffee.