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Welcome to the Better Conflict Bulletin
Our Goals and Approach
We are a small publication dedicated to the idea that the U.S. domestic conflict could be better.
You know which conflict. Maybe you call it polarization, or the culture war, or maybe just the fight for justice, but none of these really covers the sprawling dysfunction of our politics. Let’s face it: we’re fighting, and it’s turning ugly.
Our purpose isn’t to end the conflict, because we believe that conflict is part of how societies change for the better. Instead we ask: what would it mean for this conflict to be better? What does fighting constructively look like? We see two ways to answer such questions. First, a great deal has already been said on what makes conflict “better” or “worse,” which is why we’re into readings and research. Second, it’s essential to get curious about the deeper dynamics of current events. That’s why we’re also a news publication, rounding up the most insightful writing not about what just happened, but about how to approach it productively from the perspective of conflict transformation.
There are many ways to describe our subject. We’ll use words like polarization, social cohesion, and peace. But mere pacification is not enough, so we’ll also talk about things like justice and rights. We’re after both: the integration of peace and justice. We aim to be one part realpolitik and one part hippie idealism.
We know we need to draw from a wide range of traditions, from scholarly to community, from spiritual to radical. We also know we need all sorts of people to help us make sense of all of this. No matter whether you’re in the majority or the minority, no matter what your special expertise is, no matter what your politics are – if you are dedicated to the project of living together with respect, we want you here.
There is no way this line of inquiry will feel safe for everyone. We are already arguing over the right language to describe our disagreements! But coming up with genuinely new ideas requires constant curiosity; it requires resisting the simple explanations that perpetuate conflict, even when they feel essential. We intend to open up the aperture, and that means we’ll run into some truly wild stuff. At times you may find us uncomfortably slow to condemn. Conflict is ugly, and it is often hurtful, and people can behave very badly even as they fight for important partial truths. This work requires talking to people that not everyone will like, and so we offer our disclaimer up front: this newsletter fraternizes with the enemy.
We have three core values:
Inquiry. We are learning just like you, and aim to be comprehensive in our questions and fearless with the answers.
Compassion. In the end, this is all about living together with kindness.
Utility. We’re always looking for better approaches that you can apply in your own life and work.
This is a deeply human pursuit. It is heartbreaking that often, the same national event can feel like a victory for some and a tragedy for others, over and over. But for many of us, the pain is far more personal than that. Most of us have already been hurt by this fight; record numbers of us have lost friends and family due to politics. Those hurts are real, and far worse could be coming if we can’t figure out something better. You’re not imagining that something is tearing us apart, (and we’ll show you the data in a future edition). Something is wrong in the way we are fighting. You’re here because you’re dissatisfied, and because you know there has to be a better way.