In Europe the “well educated” and those with centuries old ancestry may at times look down on America as neo-nascent, primitive and lacking culture but they are wrong. Our gift of culture is a lack of “being their culture” and an ongoing effort of us to create and re-create ours. Let me explain!
Yesterday I was privileged to host a small MeetUp group of bright diverse thinkers. We call ourselves M’s Conversationalists. We are one of many others, a phenomenon that is an echo of 1776 as a way of thinking. We are often the echo of openness to diverse cultures that drives people to leave their homes on the other side of the Earth to come and join us. Join us so that they might experience America. What does this have to do with meetUps?
Consider our small group or another I belong to. In these groups there are what some might call “bleeding heart” liberals, there are some “staunch” stubborn conservatives, there are Libertarians, there are theists, there are atheists, there are those who chose to seek fun each day, there are those who seek complexity and depth and there are even those whose heart is filled with the cultural beauty of their religious heritage but no belief in God himself. The diversity is astoundingly American. The tolerance is astoundingly American. Oddly enough it is not immune to manipulation. It is part of something recently driven to near civil war by the efforts of “intellectuals elitists” who think they know so much more than us “average” American people, something they can manipulate via the new media. This is something that FaceBook, Twitter and the likes does with great power and deceptive tyranny.
Think of it for just a moment so you can see how our MeetUp can at times be quite the opposite. In FaceBook during the recent election, if you had a strong liberal or conservative viewpoint, many people succumbed to the desire to “unfriend” or “mute” the conversations of frequently annoying opposing viewpoints (especially those driven by elitist celebrities or right wing extremists). It became tiresome to listen to the statements or see the posted images describing viewpoints that showed Hillary or Trump in ways our “intuition” told us was ridiculous! So little by little people cut off the sounds of voices that challenged their chosen paradigm. Day after day their discussion room grew smaller and smaller, and the walls shinier and brighter until all they could see in them was a reflection of themselves kissing themselves for being so right! This is the frightening and divisive potential side of social media, even in America! It is how terrorists (Islamic or otherwise) can raise up an Army of fanatics that will kill people of opposing viewpoints.
On the other side there are many Americans who have chosen for centuries to not be deluded by the limitations of cultural, religious, or even intellectual academic arrogance. We called this phenomena America and it is why people still come to us from diverse cultures, religions and thinking. It is a potential openness to eclectic ideas, diverse art expression, unusual music, varied foods, new cultures and more. We Americans, in fact, have an appetite for change and a desire to try the new. I believe it is what makes us the most creative nation on Earth and if kept alive, will make us a nation of survivors and leaders that history has yet to know. But what does this have to do with a a meetup of mostly retired people in South Florida? Everything!
The rules of a good meetup are: civility, tolerance, humor, intelligence, some knowledge, a willingness to think outside the box, a willingness to think, a willingness to share and defend you opinion, an openness to sharing who you are, an acceptance of the importance of knowing people who think differently than you do and at least hear their values, certainly an appreciation of the value of change and the courteous patience to listen without interruption. What comes of this is not that you may change your mind on issues but that you get to know that those who differ with you have as good a heart as you do! You may also realize that no matter how much you read or think you know, you just may find yourself changing you opinion a year from today. What a great opportunity that is, because it is your choice!
So what is so special about meetUp? Nothing really, but the people who make its groups are! It is many American’s who are civil, polite and open to other opinions, knowing that they cannot always be right. It is people who have very opposing opinions, sharing humor and their heart. It is the light heartedness of discussing your favorite food, movie, book or games. It is openness that I believe is unmatched in the rest of the world.
In our little corners, we call ourselves M’s Conversationalists. We are not terribly unusual or unique but we are a meeting that is a short drive for most of us to attend and so there are many interesting people who join us. I hope many others are sharing this fun and American openness of expression and thinking.
Janr Ssor . . .
……………… To not ignore what others will likely otherwise comment was my omission in writing this is a sad note for MeetUp.com. They broke with the spirit of their creation by posting #Resist in every MeetUp members face and creating “sham empty” #Resist groups all accross America. The founders of MeetUp chose to use the financial contributions of its diverse connections and their paid MeetUp organizations money to push MeetUp’s political agenda and opinion. I hope they will wake up and not become another oppressive media. After all, what makes them think they are so bright as to be right and smarter than many of us, rather than just another American opinion?……………………