On the left, we are right now rightly focused on taking aggressive action to restore constitutional balance to our country, even as we build coalitions and organize together to break through the media-governmental establishment’s deathgrip on power.  Many have pointed out that at some point, we need to be more clear about what we are for, even as we oppose creeping tyrrany.

One way to build community and tease out what we believe in is to talk about people in our lives who shaped our beliefs.  I talked about a big one for me in this post, but who shaped you?  Who taught you the values that bring you to this site?  Tell us about that in the comments, and especially, listen to what others have to say.

This is no idle exercise.  Persuasion begins with curiosity.  Even the hardest edged political opponent will have a hard time slandering you as a whacked out lunatic if they understand your values when you talk about your mentors, and they know you’ve listened to and understood theirs.  Talk about values before you talk about issues, and connect your values to stories about real people you’ve known. 

We all have special people who have shaped us, some inside our families, some outside.  When you begin a conversation with a potential opponent by asking about their own life’s "superheroes" who shaped their thinking, the whole conversation often takes a new tone.  Those you ask are more likely to ask you who played a similar role for you.  You may find common values, a way to talk about differences that is more real and human, less oppositional.

Talking about this stuff begins with practice.  For the long term, all of us need to be able to change our country one conversation at a time, so why not practice right here in the comments?  Seems like a reasonable Late Nite thing to do.  Hell, I used to be a bartender:  pull up a stool, name your poison and tell us your story.

On another note, many of you volunteered to join the Roots Project last night.  We’re working on a new technological infrastructure, but for now, we’re still using google groups.  That limits our ability to add large numbers of people in a short time frame (it’s an antispam protection google uses).  So please be patient if you have not heard from us yet:  we’re getting to you!