Showing posts with label civil discourse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label civil discourse. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Is the US Headed Towards Another Civil War? | Barbara F. Walter | TED (video)

"Based on her work for a CIA task force aimed at predicting civil wars, political scientist Barbara F. Walter examines the rise in extremism and threats to democracies around the globe -- and paints an unsettling picture of the increasing likelihood of a second civil war in the United States. If you love watching TED Talks like this one, become a TED Member to support our mission of spreading ideas:"
Video link -> 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

"We gathered on the site of the great battle of our Civil War in order to prevent another one"

"On July 5, 2023—160 years after the Battle of Gettysburg—the unthinkable happened.

We came to @Gettysburg to launch a movement, bringing together 650 conservatives and liberals on equal terms to clarify differences, find common ground where it exists, and strengthen our nation.

It was hard to pull off.

How do you bring people of opposing viewpoints together during such an intense time of division?

We leaned on a small, scrappy staff and a dedicated group of volunteers who put everything they had into making the convention happen.

And then, it did."

Read the full thread in this PDF ->

View the YouTube playlist of the convention that gathered 600 folks in Gettysburg College this July 2023 ->, the public news service for 17 communities in Central PA provides some video of some of the conventions goers. ->

For more about Braver Angels, the group that organized this event ->

We were led by our two co-Chairs, Erica Manuel ( @ericut ), CEO & Executive Director of  @InstLocGov  and Wilk Wilkinson ( @wilksopinion ), host of  @DeratetheHate  podcast
"We were led by our two co-Chairs, Erica Manuel (
), CEO & Executive Director of
and Wilk Wilkinson (
), host of

Saturday, July 15, 2023

"Disagree Better - Saving Your Family Dinner" - (video)

Mónica Guzmán (@moniguzman) tweeted on Fri, Jul 14, 2023:
"Want better, braver politics? Share the heck out of this video. 
Then ask *your* elected officials what *they're* doing to save our family dinners... & the whole American experiment.

Thanks @GovCox & @GovofCO for stepping the f UP! 🇺🇸"
video link ->  or

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Boston Globe: America is ‘closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,’ CIA adviser says

"One of the world’s leading experts on political violence and terrorism is sounding the alarm on the state of democracy in America, warning that the country is increasingly on the path to being caught up in the throes of a second civil war.

Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, has served on an advisory panel run by the Central Intelligence Agency for the past several years that aims to predict where in the world a “civil war, political violence, and instability is likely to break out,” she said in an interview with CNN on Sunday, where she discussed her new book out January, “How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them.”

But Walter, who has been studying civil wars and conflicts in places like Northern Ireland, Ethiopia, and Syria for the last three decades, applied international research and the metrics used to evaluate democracies in other countries to America. What she found was that the nation is “closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,” according to a passage from the book published by the Washington Post.

“No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,” she writes in the excerpt. “If you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.”

Listen to Town Administrator Jamie Hellen and I riff on the need for civil discourse in our Winter Solstice episode of "Talk Franklin"

Talk Franklin - the Winter Solstice episode - 12/21/21 (audio)
Talk Franklin - the Winter Solstice episode - 12/21/21 (audio)

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Talk Franklin - the Winter Solstice episode - 12/21/21 (audio)

FM #684 = This is the Franklin Matters radio show, number 684 in the series. 

This session of the radio show shares my "Talk Franklin" conversation with Town Administrator Jamie Hellen. We had our conversation via the Zoom Conference Bridge.

This was recorded coincidentally beginning with the Winter Solstice at 11 AM on 12/21/21. Maybe the start of a new tradition.

We had a less formal agenda to talk through as we discussed the recent tragedy in Franklin, civil discourse, gratitude for what we do have, and looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities of 2022.

The recording runs about 40 minutes, so let’s listen to my conversation with Jamie.

Audio file ->


Candlelight vigil recording

GoFundMe for Shirley Owen 

Community Preservation public hearings announced 

Rebuilding Civility in the Public Square (book mentioned by Jamie)


We are now producing this in collaboration with Franklin.TV and Franklin Public Radio ( or 102.9 on the Franklin area radio dial.  

This podcast is my public service effort for Franklin but we can't do it alone. We can always use your help.


How can you help?

  • If you can use the information that you find here, please tell your friends and neighbors

  • If you don't like something here, please let me know

Through this feedback loop we can continue to make improvements. I thank you for listening.

For additional information, please visit or

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission.

I hope you enjoy!


You can also subscribe and listen to Franklin Matters audio on iTunes or your favorite podcast app; search in "podcasts" for "Franklin Matters"


Talk Franklin - the Winter Solstice episode - 12/21/21 (audio)
Talk Franklin - the Winter Solstice episode - 12/21/21 (audio)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Conversation with Franklin's State Representative Jeff Roy - 11/23/21 (audio)

FM #669 = This is the Franklin Matters radio show, number 669 in the series. 

This session of the radio show shares my conversation with our State Representative Jeffrey Roy. We had our conversation virtually via the Zoom conference bridge on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

We talked about: 

  • Thanksgiving, time for thanks

  • Wind power and renewable energy efforts

  • Genocide bill, legislative terms (engrossment, enactment)

  • Recycling event pilot now going state-wide

  • Critical conversations on mental health substance abuse

  • Civil and civic conversations for government discussions

Links to the key references are included in the show notes. The recording runs about 59 minutes, so let’s listen to my conversation with Jeff Roy.

*** Audio file =>


Wind power ground breaking event


Commonwealth Magazine article:


Genocide legislation text


Genocide bill articles: Public officials, faith leaders denounce antisemitism at Holocaust memorial menorah lighting, Boston Globe (11/30/21); A bill heading to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk would require Mass. school districts to teach about genocides, Boston Globe (11/27/21); Massachusetts mandates genocide education, Armenian Weekly (11/16/21); Beacon Hill eyeing tradeoffs on offshore wind, Commonwealth Magazine (10/18/21)


Green Team webpage  event listing (not showing future events at this time)


Mass Save web page (sign up for energy audits, etc.)


SAFE Coalition presentation as mentioned in the discussion (Town Council meeting of 9/15/21) ->

SAFE Coalition web page ->

Get Help Now! For Help Call the SAFE Support Hotline: 508-488-8105

You can listen to Danielle Allen on an episode of "More Perfect Union"


We are now producing this in collaboration with Franklin.TV and Franklin Public Radio ( or 102.9 on the Franklin area radio dial.  

This podcast is my public service effort for Franklin but we can't do it alone. We can always use your help.


How can you help?

  • If you can use the information that you find here, please tell your friends and neighbors

  • If you don't like something here, please let me know

Through this feedback loop we can continue to make improvements. I thank you for listening.

For additional information, please visit or

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission.

I hope you enjoy!


You can also subscribe and listen to Franklin Matters audio on iTunes or your favorite podcast app; search in "podcasts" for "Franklin Matters"

State Representative Jeff Roy
State Representative Jeff Roy

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Joint Statement from MSAA and M.A.S.S.

MSAA (@MSAA_33) tweeted  Fri, Nov 05, 2021:  @massupt and @MSAA_33 Release Joint Statement

"We stand ready to work collectively to make our schools a place where respect and civility are the norm."

For full statement ->

Shared from ->

November 5, 2021 –

A Joint Statement from the Massachusetts Schools Administrators’ Association (MSAA) and the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (M.A.S.S.):

"Superintendents and principals understood that the pandemic would not just impact our students’ academic growth but more importantly, interfere with their social and emotional development.

The adult behavior toward a LGBTQ student in Franklin and the student attack on a principal in Boston only highlight what we see in the number of dis regulated students and adults in our school community right now. These behaviors are unacceptable. 

Personal threats, verbal outbursts, and physical assaults have been escalating, creating threatening situations. It is not hyperbole to say that our school and district leaders are navigating through dangerously uncharted waters fueled by these emotions. Equally, we all need to realize that many of our young people are dealing with their own trauma and it requires an entire community to help them deal with this disruptive time in their lives.

We all need to reduce the vitriol in our communication and realize that our students are watching how we adults behave. We stand ready to work collectively to make our schools a place where respect and civility are the norm."

Joint Statement from MSAA and M.A.S.S.
Joint Statement from MSAA and M.A.S.S.


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Election results could lead to a community vision

The election results are in and unofficial for a period of time. The Town Clerk's office will validate all the totals and then make them 'official'. Given the posted 'unofficial' results, there are not likely to be any significant changes due to the margins shown in the races.

Now the real work of the newly elected officials commences. These are volunteer positions (with the exception of the Town Clerk). They will begin (or resume)  working to provide oversight and make policy decisions for all of us on how the Town of Franklin operates.

The challenges ahead of us remain. 
  • How do we come out of the devastation wrought by the pandemic? 
  • How do we address the issues of inequity or gaps raised by the pandemic? 
  • How do we properly fund our schools and all the Town services we need as a community?
Maybe we can frame this in a discussion of what we want to be in 2028? Why 2028? The 250th anniversary of the Town's incorporation on March 4, 1778.

Maybe by working to develop a community vision, we can determine how to get there. There may still be differences of opinion or priority but with agreement on a 'common goal' we might be able to move the discussion from divisive to constructive and respectful.

We are neighbors. Let us celebrate the diversity among us. Let us figure out what we need to be like in 2028 and get the civil discussion going.

For me, Franklin does matter, and I'd much rather prefer to be in a civil discussion on the vision for Franklin than in any divisive discussion.

Your Community information director
Steve Sherlock

The unofficial results are shared here:

Thanks to Jamie Barrett for bringing music to end the day at the polls on Tuesday!

Election results could lead to a community vision
Election results could lead to a community vision

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Sound familiar?


"Youngkin’s seeming confusion around controversial racial issues highlighted his conflicting roles. In Washington, while at Carlyle, he was the responsible corporate citizen practicing worthy philanthropy. In the Republican party, where that sort of non-partisan moderation is not only suspect but mocked as a source of evil, he has had to demonstrate that he is not tainted.

Soon enough, Youngkin waded into the murky waters of racial politics. He offered himself as the defender of schoolchildren from the menace of critical race theory, even though the abstruse legal doctrine is not taught in any Virginia public school. Yet he suggested that his opponent, former governor Terry McAuliffe, would impose its creed on innocent minds, depriving parents of control. “On day one, I will ban critical race theory in our schools,” Youngkin has pledged.

But his brandishing of critical race theory, nonexistent in the schools’ curriculum, has been apparently insufficiently frightening to finish the job. Perhaps not enough people know what the theory is at all. He needed one more push, searched for one more issue and produced one more ad."
Continue reading the article online. (Subscription maybe required) 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Voices of Franklin: Arielle Shearer - the word is 'complicity'

As Alan Earls appears to be a friend and supporter of Dashe Videira, his statement in Voices of Franklin on October 28, 2021 (, attempting to shift blame to a righteous voice in our community, is preposterous. He states "Free speech, and all that, it still seemed to be in poor taste and stingingly calculated to burn whatever social bridges remain on our street. And just when I was hoping we could heal."

I know several families on that street. I can't imagine ANY of his neighbors that I personally know being okay with inviting a bigot into their home, or attending an event where one was invited to speak, or even continuing to enjoy and defend an association with the bigot promoter.

I can't imagine ANY of the people that I know on Mr. Earls’ street supporting or accepting a public demonstration such as the one on October 8th, 2021 on Route 140 near the Honey Dew Donuts.  This demonstration was described by Mr. Earls ( as “A group of adults and children bearing flags and signs with patriotic-themed messages.” The photographs in his post show School Committee candidates Dashe Videira and Mark Bisson amidst signs stating “In God We Trust,” “Vote 2021” and “We Are A Christian Nation.” Excluding non-Christians is not patriotic. A public demonstration marginalizing and excluding Franklin residents of other religions from the demonstrators’ nation should not be applauded by being labeled patriotic. It not only hurts people but directly contradicts the United States Constitution, in which the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a national religion. 

There's a word for Mr. Earls' statement in Voices of Franklin and his “reporting” of the October 8th demonstration. There’s a word that describes his willingness to continue to speak well of people permitting and promoting hate and exclusion. It's "complicity." Attempting to smooth over the natural consequences - sadness, discord, anger, activism, and any other appropriate response - of bigoted and exclusionary acts, writing an opinion such as the one in Voices of Franklin, blaming the person pointing out the hateful choices, at no point indicating or recognizing wrongdoing on the part of the candidates referenced, this pushes it way past being a vocal bystander.

Dashe Videira invited a man into her home as an honored guest speaker. The man is an unapologetic bigot, as anyone who Googles him can determine on their own in less than a minute. Dashe Videira and Mark Bisson participated in a "stand-out" in which they marginalized and excluded non-Christians by promoting the message "We Are A Christian Nation." These are things that happened; no one is contesting that. Aaron Gouveia's post brought these things to light. Rejecting hate does not, as Mr. Earl states, "burn social bridges." Promoting and validating hate speech and exclusion "burns social bridges."

Mr. Earls states "To behave as if a young mother of four children, brimming with energy and kindness, is an existential threat to society, is at best a gross exaggeration." It's one thing to turn your head away and ignore prejudice. That’s bad enough, but that is not what Mr. Earls has done. By looking straight at it and willingly telling a fairytale, by reporting an exclusionary event as patriotic, by attempting to redirect blame onto someone doing the right thing, Mr. Earls has made it very clear that he is okay with what has transpired in recent weeks, and equally clear that he is part of the problem.

Arielle Shearer
Franklin Resident

To add your voice to the discussion, please follow the guidelines

Voices of Franklin: Arielle Shearer - the word is  'complicity'
Voices of Franklin: Arielle Shearer - the word is  'complicity'

Friday, October 29, 2021

A Call to Our Community: #LOVEfranklin

We are appalled by the recent lack of respect and civility shown to Mackenzie Atwood, a Franklin High School senior and student representative to the Franklin School Committee, who spoke with courage at the October 26, 2021, Franklin School Committee meeting about the discrimination she and her friends experience on a regular basis.  The interruption and attempt to silence Mackenzie by speaking over her cannot and should not be tolerated.


Over the last several months, we have become acutely aware of an increase in hate-filled rhetoric and vandalism in our community.  Hate speech and vandalism against members of the LGBTQIA+ community, racial slurs, and anti-Semitic graffiti cannot and should not tolerated.  We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to hate-filled language and actions no matter how frequently they may occur in our community or elsewhere.  We must speak out and act against hate to build a better community.


Each of our faith traditions calls us to love: to value the sacred worth of everyone, treating each person with dignity and respect.  To be very specific, let us love Franklin.  We resolve to create a beloved community where all persons regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnic background, age, stature, ability, creed, or faith can find a home.


Therefore, we commit ourselves to love Franklin.  And, we ask you to commit yourself to love Franklin too.


  • Rabbi Tom Alpert, Temple Etz Chaim
  • Susan Borchard, Franklin Federated Church
  • Rev. Eric Cherry, First Universalist Society in Franklin
  • Mary Diehl, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Franklin Interfaith Choir Director
  • Rev. Maggie Geller, St. John's Episcopal Church
  • Alisa Hansen, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Rev. Dr. Jacob W. Juncker, Franklin United Methodist Church
  • Father Brian Manning, Saint Mary Parish, Franklin MA
  • Rev. Kathleen McAdams, St. John's Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Dr. Marlayna Schmidt, Franklin Federated Church

I hope you’ll consider adding your name and encouraging others to do the same.  You can find a link to the statement along with a form to add your name here:

A Call to Our Community: #LOVEfranklin
A Call to Our Community: #LOVEfranklin

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Superintendent's Letter to the Franklin Community - 10/27/2021

Superintendent Dr. Sara Ahern's Letter to the Franklin Community in response to the October 26th, 2021 School Committee Meeting.

Franklin Public Schools
Franklin Public Schools
Dear Franklin Community,
It is with a heavy heart and sincere anger that I write regarding the events that transpired at last evening’s School Committee meeting. The conduct, tone, and disruption by some members of the audience was appalling and a violation of Franklin Public Schools’ core values of a safe and inclusive environment and a collaborative community as well as unacceptable with respect to public meeting procedures. It is also contrary to the community’s consensus vision for our graduates of empathetic and productive citizens who demonstrate social-awareness through inclusivity and the consideration of various perspectives.

Franklin School Committee meetings are business meetings of the governing body of the school district that are held in public. They are not public meetings. The agenda for these meetings and opportunities for citizen’s comments is prescribed by School Committee policy. This is a controlled environment, however, last night I felt compelled to interrupt the meeting by asking for a recess due to a few audience members shouting insensitive comments out of turn while a student representative was speaking.

The student representative was expanding upon comments she made at a recent School Committee meeting as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in response to graffiti that was found at Franklin High School. She was permitted by the Chair to respond to a question raised during public comment regarding the meaning of protected classes within the school as well as in society as a whole. The student was eloquent and articulate in her response.

The jeers from some audience members, however, created a traumatic situation for the student and invalidated her statement of reality she so courageously shared. We are processing the impact of this traumatic event on those in attendance as well as the vicarious trauma ringing throughout the community. You can expect FPS to solidify a system to protect students during civil discourse and share plans for community healing in the coming week.

FPS plays a role in supporting the children of our community through a pivotal time of their social, emotional, and physical development. This is a time where children are trying to make meaning of the world around them, while also coming into their own identity. Whole child learning calls for our curriculum and initiatives to be appropriately tied to the developmental stages of our students. While students are getting acclimated with their own identities and experiences, FPS recognizes that the intersectionality of those identities inform the lens through which our children navigate our community. Fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion means integrating those concepts into the fabric of our district as a whole. These efforts are echoed by the creation of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

The D, E, I Committee is a group of nearly 40 students, faculty and staff members, and administrators who are working towards building an anti-biased and socially-just school system. This steering committee leads the district in listening, learning, acting, and reflecting in order to affirm diversity, promote equity and accountability, reduce barriers to success, and foster a safe and inclusive school environment. We do this by applying an anti-bias lens to curriculum development, staff recruitment and retention, professional development, policies and practices, school culture, and communication. 

Goals for the 2021-2022 school year include:
Building awareness of and guidance on national months of recognition and holidays
Building upon “Speak Up At School” strategies to interrupt microaggressions
Revising discipline practices to focus on Restorative and Accountable Practices
Incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into our curriculum and instructional planning, including the expansion of literature so that all students are represented in the books they read
Continuing our partnership with the Anti-Defamation League in support of our World of DifferenceTM Peer Leader program at Franklin’s middle schools and Franklin High School
Expanding our partnership with the Anti-Defamation League to become designated as “No Place for Hate” schools
Review data for inequity and plan future actions to address these

Additionally, we are planning to recruit and hire a Director of SEL and Equity.

In the meantime, we would like to remind our community of our system of reporting. Our administrators take every incident that is reported very seriously. Reporters can make reports directly to a school administrator.

Additionally, reporters can make reports anonymously through an online form, which can be found on each school’s website. When a report is received, an investigation is initiated immediately. The facts of each situation determine the outcomes which can include support plans for the target(s), safety plans for the aggressor(s), education, discipline, and therapeutic supports. We acknowledge comments we have heard from those who feel that the administration doesn’t do anything. We are exploring the disconnect between our actions and those feelings in order to better understand how we can respond, to the extent possible within law and policy.

Some lingering questions remain from last night as a question was raised about the meaning of a “protected student” and this was an area that our student representative sought to explain. All of our students are protected by our Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan, an expectation supported by state law and our School Committee’s Bullying policy. A “protected class” is a federal and state legal definition protecting individuals on the basis of the following categories: race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, genetic information, disability, pregnancy or a related condition, veteran status, age, or homelessness. The Franklin School Committee maintains policies related to Non-Discrimination and Harassment. In addition to the legal requirements to follow the law, it is a moral imperative to protect all individuals with additional attention to these protected classes due to historic acts of marginalization, bias, and discrimination.

Our community has expressed via social forums their support for our student representative and the student population at large. Ultimately, our collective goal is to support students on their journeys. I encourage individuals to reflect on what actions they can take to support our community vision for our FPS students and Franklin community.

I want to be sure to commend our Science National Honor Society officers for their concluding remarks promoting positivity, diversity, equity, and inclusion which provided support to our student representatives.

Last night’s disruption is not an isolated incident. Vitriol in civil discourse has only been increasing in both in-person settings as well as online in Franklin and elsewhere. This is true for children and adults alike. Last night’s disruption is not limited to the schools. Bias-based behavior is permeating layers of the community. As adults, I implore you to be mindful of your behavior as you serve as important role models. Our children are watching.

This message is not intended to stifle respectful public comment including matters on which we may disagree. Citizen’s comment is an opportunity for members of the public to express an opinion on issues within the School Committee’s authority. We ask that you celebrate and practice civility in doing so and remain respectful of the rules of order. Administrative channels may also be appropriate avenues for complaints. We strive to respond in a timely manner after researching an issue.

I also encourage our community members to make advocacy and support for each and every child visible and sustained. Join us and “Speak Up” within the community. We need your help in achieving the vision for our graduates that we as a community established.

With respect for all in Franklin, 

Sara Ahern
Superintendent of Schools

Shared from Franklin Public Schools