When in December of 2016 the cover page of Time Magazine labeled this country the "divided states of America,” it felt true. A harrowing 2016 U.S. presidential election, left a gash in American communities decades in the making.

While activism quickly captured the energy generated by the election results, peacebuilders as well felt compelled to act. Uniquely equipped, a number of change-makers from around the United States came together at George Mason University’s Point of View for a two day gathering. Practitioners reflected on their role in helping to bridge the U.S. policy divide and make that quantum leap to restore civility in our political discourse.

David Emerald Womeldorff, from the Power of TED*, provided us with the language for expressing the change we wanted to see and helped us move away from the daunting task of resolving "the problem" to focusing our attention on co-creating the outcome we were envisioning. The discussion led to imagining a normative change in our society that prioritizes collaboration and dialogue over competition and domination.

Philip Hellmich, from the Shift Network, reminded us that many, all over the world, were already contributing to this vision. He encouraged us to align ourselves with the natural intelligence of this grassroots movement so we could "be the change we wanted to see in the world" (Mahatma Gandhi).

Michael McPhearson, from Veterans For Peace, walked us through past social movements that achieved a normative shift in U.S. consciousness, such as the civil rights, labor, and women rights movements. Movements can emerge organically, such as the airport demonstrations against the travel ban that happened spontaneously all over the country. Others are quite deliberate in their design, as was the Koch Brothers’ efforts to decrease the size of government involvement. However all successful movements have similar characteristics: they stood for something but were also clear as to what they stood against. It's only when the most oppressed began to act differently, that it forced the oppressors to change.

Many others spoke, too many to list, and much discussion was generated around what our collective work could be without much consensus. However, what was certain is that as leaders in our communities we needed to amplify our work and re-frame the narrative.

We as peacemakers have a role to play by engaging in creative, regenerative actions in service to the outcome we are seeking to achieve and empower others to do the same.





Nathalie Al-Zyoud is a Senior Mediator with Communities in Transition (CIT)




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