Libtard. Snowflake. Fascist. Nazi. These are the words we toss off casually in comment threads and Facebook posts, targeting those with whom we disagree for barrages of insults based solely on hot-headed reactions to perceived political opinions.
Andrew Forlines thinks there's a more constructive and humanizing way to engage in political conversation — over dinner. Forlines, a working chef whose experience includes eight years at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, was recently moved to action after learning about Make America Dinner Again, a supper club founded in San Francisco by two women who were interested in promoting civil dialogue — and possibly even lasting friendship — between people with opposing political views.
The chef got the idea to start his own MADA chapter after he came across a podcast on Mother Jones by a guest at a San Francisco event, and he decided that the concept would be perfect for Denver. "I reached out to [MADA] and asked if I could do the Denver chapter," he explains.
MADA founders Tria Chang and Justine Lee took Forlines up on his request and added Denver as a location on the organization's website. Chang and Lee have also created a guide to hosting an event to help dinner organizers like Forlines overcome the trial-and-error phase of planning.
"We don't all need to be in our own echo chamber all the time," Forlines explains of why he's bringing MADA to town. "We can disagree and still be friends."
To help bring opposing political sides together, Forlines has planned the first dinner for Friday, February 16, at Secular Hub in the Whittier neighborhood. The event is free (with a donation requested to help cover expenses) and if you want to be a guest, you can fill out a questionnaire on the Denver page of the MADA website. Once entries are in, Forlines will select a balanced group of participants. He hopes to fill five tables of eight guests each.
While much of the conversation is open, MADA also provides conversation-starter questions like, "What news items have caught your attention the most, or impacted you personally the most?" and "What issues do you think hold the most importance to local life here in Denver?"
If all goes well (meaning that nobody gets stabbed with a butter knife), Forlines hopes to continue MADA events on a regular basis — quarterly or as frequently as every other month, depending on overall interest. This will be a learning experience for him as well as his guests, since he hasn't had the chance to attend a MADA dinner in another city.
If it sounds like an awkward family dinner where your least favorite uncle harangues you because of your voting choices, the key difference is that guests arrive knowing that the goal is learning, growing and possibly coming to a mutual understanding (rather than just telling people they're wrong or ignorant, as that boorish uncle might do). If this sounds like a great way to spend a Friday night over a casual dinner (whether booze will be allowed has not been determined, but Forlines says he doesn't want that to be a distraction), fill out the questionnaire; if you're selected, you'll be provided with details on the time, address and expectations. Then leave the insult thesaurus at home and be prepared to listen and learn.
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