Attention from in Utah’s Largest Newspaper

Thanks to Allison Pond for mentioning us in her article last weekend in Utah’s biggest newspaper, the Deseret News:   Is there a movement to depolarize America? (Sunday, March 6, 2016)

 Hess, a lifelong religious conservative, teamed up with Phil Neisser, an atheist, Marxist professor at State University of New York, to write a 2012 book called “You’re Not as Crazy as I Thought … But You’re Still Wrong” in which the authors converse on topics from big government to race and sexuality.

Hess and Neisser still strongly disagree politically, but writing the book was “transformative,” Hess said, and they became dear friends.

“(Talking about differences) changes you,” Hess said

The article went on to elaborate on “Changing hearts, not minds”:  Some people like polarization because it gives them a sense of security and superiority, Hess said.  “If (polarization) wasn’t a winning political strategy, if it didn’t appeal to deep human needs and feelings, we wouldn’t have it,” [David] Blankenhorn said.

So far, liberals seem more interested than conservatives in depolarization groups and events, Hess said. It may be that the whole concept of dialogue sounds too progressive, he said, and he is working on ideas to engage the city’s religious community more deeply.

[Mark] Gerzon said his biggest skeptics are his friends on the far left and the far right who believe in conspiracy theories and accuse him of “singing Kumbaya in a war zone.”

There may be some truth in that, he said, but having worked as a U.N. mediator in countries including Nepal and Kenya, he has learned that “when the middle disappears — when you talk yourself out of there being a middle — you have violence.”

Hess is adamant that changing minds isn’t the goal of dialogue — it’s to recognize the humanity and the reasonableness of people on the other side.

“It’s more of a change of heart than a change of mind,” he said. “It’s like in a marriage. The turning point is often to accept that person is who they are and not try to change them, not force them or fix them.”

One Response to “Attention from in Utah’s Largest Newspaper”
  1. Phil Neisser says:

    I like this, but of course I’m biased

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