It probably means I’m one of those people who refuses to engage in constructive dialogue, but I’m skeptical of these Rhode Island Foundation events:
What do you get when you mix a bunch of Rhode Islanders who disagree about public issues with 47 gallons of marinara sauce?
“You find common ground and ways to civilly disagree and debate,” Neil D. Steinberg, the president and chief executive of the Rhode Island Foundation, said Thursday afternoon ahead of the foundation’s annual meeting. A significant portion of his remarks prepared for the meeting discussed the foundation’s recent Together RI initiative, in which nearly 1,300 people attended 20 dinners around the state from late March to early May.
There are two possibilities, here, that may depend entirely on the viewer’s perspective: Did these events mingle people who disagree or darken the lines around what a certain segment of insiders thinks is acceptable? It’s their forum; they set the tone; they choose the venue; they control the debate. Most importantly, they decide what beliefs and behaviors count as “civil,” and they write the summary report after the fact.
This is the same organization, don’t forget, that promoted a slick and offensive video tarring Rhode Islanders as uncouth complainers who should just be quiet until the kids who mouth the RI Foundation’s preferred line have grown up and taken over.