Nearly a month after a bitter presidential election, about 20 Columbia residents convened a study circle Tuesday at the Columbia Public Library to discuss political labeling and reconciliation in the election’s aftermath.
The study circle, which lasted three hours, featured frank exchanges on personal convictions, but participants reported leaving the session with greater feelings of optimism and understanding.
The session began with a brief introduction by Columbia human rights investigator Nanette Ward on the study circle’s roots in Native American tribal culture.
“As diverse and as expansive as there are tribes in our country, they say the circle is a common thing among all of them,” she said. “They have many differences among their tribes, but no matter where I go, I know there’s going to be a circle and a talking stick and a sharing equally of people.”
Citizens spent most of the session discussing their feelings on the acidic nature of the recent presidential campaign and the spread of divisive political labels.
Some labels identified as offensive included “tree hugger,” “fascist” and “bleeding heart.”
Others identified as more favorable were “Christian progressive,” “liberal progressive” and “capitalist.”
The communal roots of the circular formation were apparent in the evening’s discourse, which maintained a consistently cordial tone.
“From the comments, I felt that people did have a sense of connection to new people and being part of the community, and even sharing across different viewpoints,” Ward said.
Darryl Douglas, a teacher at Hickman High School, agreed.
“Our small circle was very cordial, very thoughtful and listened very well, which is one of the main things you want to do,” Douglas said.
The effect of the personal exchanges among local residents was discernible as the group adjourned.
“My personal views haven’t changed, my outlook is still as right-wing as it ever was, but I’m definitely more interested in talking to people of the leftist persuasion,” said Alex Yalen, an MU student who attended.
“It’s nice to see that two different points of view aren’t necessarily competing points of view,” he said. “I was moved by that.”