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I’m a CPL Member and I’m Curious. 

There are hundreds of bridging organizations out there, many national in scope, but CPL is unique in many ways. Most importantly, we don’t just listen to people on the other side. We get to know them and appreciate the insights they provide us. We get CURIOUS!

In 2024, Crossing Party Lines updated our mission and vision statements. Too many people heard our name and assumed we were either “all about politics” or “just about politics.”  People who attend our events know we are about so much more, and we felt we needed to communicate that to the world. We wanted to call attention to the fact that our members benefit in many ways besides learning about the issues and about how our government runs. 

 

Our new mission statement tells the world that we are in the business of “equipping individuals to unlock curiosity about differing viewpoints, through conversation and community building.” 

 

Why the focus on curiosity? you might ask. Why not tell the world how Crossing Party Lines makes it easier for members to talk about things like feelings and experiences, and even values and beliefs. Our mission statement speaks directly to curiosity because while all those things (and facts) matter, it’s curiosity that drives us to seek these out. 

  • Curiosity drives us to seek out facts–not just the facts that feel true to us, but also the facts that make us uncomfortable; the facts that help us see the world from multiple perspectives.
  • Curiosity leads us to get to know someone who is different from us. To wonder about both how we are different (and why) and how we are the same. 
  • Curiosity drives us to wonder what we will learn if we choose to look at an issue from other perspectives.

 

Curiosity allows for listening to understand, leads to digging to discover why any of us hold the views we do, even where our own views come from. Without curiosity, there would be no Crossing Party Lines. 

 

I used to say that the root of polarization was lack of imagination:  “I can’t imagine why anyone would vote for him!” These days I describe it more as atrophy of our “curiosity muscle.”  Even when we believe we should be curious about the “other” side, we tend not to know how to be curious or what to be curious about.  In my next few posts I will give you some ideas for moving beyond both these limitations.

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    The Two Types of Depolarization

    Depolarization — the work of reducing toxic polarization — is best understood in terms of the two types of polarization that shape our interactions and perceptions in today’s politically charged climate:

    1. Affective Polarization

    Affective polarization revolves around emotions and feelings. It refers to the emotional divide between individuals or groups with differing political views. It’s about how people feel about others who hold opposing ideologies.

    • Us vs. Them: In affective polarization, people tend to see those on the other side of the political spectrum as part of an “us vs. them” mentality. Emotions like anger, fear, and distrust often come into play.
    • Emotional Reactions: When encountering someone with opposing views, affectively polarized individuals may experience heightened emotions. They might feel threatened, defensive, or even hostile.
    • Echo Chambers: Social media and personalized news feeds can exacerbate affective polarization by reinforcing existing beliefs and isolating individuals from diverse perspectives.

    2. Cognitive Polarization

    Cognitive polarization focuses on thought processes and cognitive biases. It pertains to how people think about the views of others.

    • Discounting Opposing Views: Cognitive polarization leads to a tendency to discount opposing viewpoints without critically evaluating them. People may jump to conclusions, assuming that differing opinions lack validity or logical soundness.
    • Us vs. Them (Again): Just as in affective polarization, cognitive polarization reinforces the “us vs. them” mindset. It hinders open-mindedness and intellectual curiosity.
    • Intellectual Echo Chambers: Cognitive polarization occurs when people surround themselves with like-minded sources, reinforcing their preconceptions and avoiding exposure to alternative perspectives.

    The Interplay Between Affective and Cognitive Polarization

    Affective and cognitive polarization often feed into each other. Emotional reactions (affective) influence how we process information (cognitive), and vice versa.

    Breaking the Cycle: CPL recognizes that depolarization  requires us to address both affective and cognitive aspects. Encouraging empathy and  active listening is not enough.  We must also teach critical thinking and intellectual humility if we are to truly bridge the gap.

    About Bridging

    Bridging refers to the intentional effort to reduce toxic polarization by fostering understanding, empathy, and communication between individuals or groups with differing political views. It aims to build connections and discover our shared humanity, ultimately bridging the gaps that divides people along ideological lines.