[Our Guest Writers today: A native of Alaska, Laurel Cook is a 38 year resident of Bellingham where she and her husband, Cactus, raised their 4 children. They enjoy gathering with family and friends for good food and lively conversation, walking on the lovely trails in our county, reading and travel. Jon Neville is a 2 year transplant from Colorado. He lives with his in wife in the Samish neighborhood where they enjoy the natural beauty and laid back sensibilities of the Northwest.]
A liberal and conservative walk into a bar... It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. But if you’ve ever attended Make America Dinner Again (MADA), it’s probably the beginning of a usual night. MADA started in 2016. Some friends in San Francisco were unimpressed with the political polarization and tribalism and decided to do something about it. They gathered their liberal and conservative friends and sat down for a meal and discussion about politics. It was something you don’t see everyday. The world needed more of it. This idea became MADA and just three years later it’s a national organization. The premise is simple. Everyone one of us struggles with political tribalism, but at a MADA dinner guests sit across the table from someone who is on the other side of the aisle. By the end of the night, your world gets a little bit bigger. And here is the good news: Bellingham just opened its first MADA chapter.
Jon Neville and Laurel Cook, co-leaders of the Bellingham chapter of Make America Dinner Again, are unlikely co-hosts. They are separated by age, gender and political bent. Both are Precinct Committee Officers for their political parties and active in local politics. They are, nevertheless, committed to the philosophy of the program: Bring equal numbers of liberals and conservatives together to share a meal and have meaningful conversations about current American politics and social issues. The intent of each dinner is not to change opinions or argue political differences but to speak in a way that one can be heard and listen in a way that one can hear. The end result has been new understanding and a recognition of common ground.
Dinners usually consist of ten guests each. The topic of one dinner was “People without homes: Causes, Effects and Solutions.” Another dinner discussed “Gun Violence: Solutions for American.” Feed back has been consistently positive. Some guests arrived at the dinners with feelings of trepidation but left with a new awareness and hope. “It is a small thing, but it is a thing,” one guest stated.
A couple of guests stand out. Samantha is an active member of the Whatcom Democrats. If you asked her if she knows any conservatives, she won’t be able to think of anyone. She joined us for our first MADA dinner and was admittedly nervous about talking with conservatives. After several hours of interesting conversation, she ended the night telling us she had a wonderful time and a new appreciation for conservatives. Cody was a recent high school graduate living in Ferndale. He was home-schooled by his mother and had never talked with adult liberals about politics. The MADA dinner was one of his favorite events of the summer. He is now heading off to college with a new appreciation of the political diversity in our community.
The program is eager to sponsor more dinners. If you would like to suggest topics for consideration and learn more about MADA, you should contact Jon or Laurel by visiting the MADA website. Sign up if you would like to attend a meal.The only requirement is a willingness to listen and engage in civil conversation.