I’ve recounted my experience of traveling to Washington DC in late March for a gathering of 21 people from around the country. Our goal was that of having frank but tactful and respectful discussions of a Hot Button of contemporary American society: guns. We comprised a wide social spectrum and variety of attitudes toward, and experiences with, firearms.
The mentoring team did a superb job of preparing us to address the issue, and I believe everyone came away from the event having learned new things about themselves, with an appreciation for people with whom we would strongly disagree.
Following the meeting a closed Facebook group was established to enable its participants to stay in touch and delve deeper into the topics we had explored. Some time later 130 more people that had taken the initial survey were added to the FB group. Like all of us, these participants agreed to have their comments reviewed by representatives of the whose newspapers that organized the project.
What happened next?
“The 21” soon became painfully aware of the limitations of social media, when it came to maintaining or deepening our connection. The discipline inculcated by the moderators worked well when we were face-to-face but the free-wheeling nature of Facebook made it easy to get off-topic. Sports, politics (that Pandora’s Box!) and matters of a personal nature diluted the force of our interactions.
The addition of “The 130” muddied the waters further. None of them had the training that reminded the initial group to take a deep breath before posting something incendiary. There were instances when members of the enlarged group were banned, on account of their inability to “play nice.”
Outside monitoring the of “Guns: An American Conversation” FB group ended sometime in May-June. While several of The 21 kept in touch most of us (myself included) decided the group’s utility had ended, and it faded into history.
To some, the manner in which this endeavor ended makes it a waste of time and money. A mere 21 souls weren’t capable of solving the gun problem that grips the nation, were they? Still, I believe that I and the people with whom I spent an intense and exhilarating day and a half can be part of the solution, rather than agents that perpetuate the problem.
We damn well better start somewhere.