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Blueprint for Turning Despair into Action in 2017

Those who struggle to find peace during divided times can find community with others.(Pixabay)
Those who struggle to find peace during divided times can find community with others.
January 2, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The United States begins 2017 somewhat divided with emotions still running high over the realities of the Trump presidency. But an Ohio faith leader is encouraging those in despair to turn it into action.

Howard Tolley, former director of Unitarian Universalist Justice Ohio, says education is the first step. While it may be tempting to turn off the television news, he says knowledge is power and exposure to broad sources of information can build understanding.

Tolley adds that harmony can be achieved among even the most extreme ideological viewpoints through respectful conversation.

"In order to build bridges with people who have different points of view and try and overcome the polarization in our society, we have to learn how to communicate,” he stresses. “The difficulty of trying to have those conversations is tremendously challenging but so well worthwhile."

The next recommendation is advocacy, and Tolley maintains citizens need to go beyond the voting booth and connect with their elected leaders.

He stresses there are no permanent allies or enemies and notes legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle in Ohio have worked together to oppose capital punishment, support Medicaid expansion and reduce the prison population.

When persuasion does not work, Tolley says there sometimes is the need to agitate.

"We hearken back to Martin Luther King and his recognition that sometimes you need to be maladjusted and you need to do public witness in the streets,” he states. “If you're willing to court arrest, engage in civil disobedience for the higher law."

Tolley adds those who still struggle to find peace during divided times should look for ways to be in community with others – perhaps through church or by joining advocacy organizations.

"Finding that you are not alone in the struggle can make all the difference in your own mental health and avoiding the inevitable burnout that comes with the frustration,” he points out.

Tolley also suggests supporting efforts to challenge unconstitutional laws and giving money to organizations that fight injustice.

He developed the term "sixate" for his guide to action. It stands for educate, advocate, agitate, litigate, collaborate and donate.

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH