Origin Stories: 'I Am Edmonds' | Moment's Notice

By Maria A. Montalvo | Jul 26, 2019

“The single biggest problem of communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

The City of Edmonds Diversity Commission recently asked Edmonds’ residents to write their personal stories through the “I Am Edmonds” project. It is based on the premise that if we share our backgrounds and identify how we are more similar than we are different, we can promote more understanding.

Not a small goal … reconnecting as members of our communities, but one that the country and the world have identified as a priority in this era of screen time and social media and strong differences of opinion.

Several recent studies have shown how polarized our country is becoming, and although we did have moments of strong internal disagreement in our history, it is easier and easier to remain separated and unaware of each other as individuals.

In 1992, a few psychologists and political scientists got together to analyze how we interacted politically, and it was determined that at that time, the U.S. was basically politically heterogeneous. That means that most counties had a balance of Democrats and Republicans.

In 2018, a social psychologist, Matt Motyl, looked at that baseline study and then analyzed the data over time to find some worrisome developments.

In the past 26 years, our map has shifted toward polarization. Counties and states across the country are becoming less balanced, with progressives and conservatives living separately – your neighbors generally believe what you believe and it is more difficult to be friendly with someone who holds an opposing view.

Motyl then went on to analyze how these two opposing groups view morality to understand why we have so much trouble understanding each other. The nature of moral reasoning varies on a continuum from individualized morality to group-based morality and directly influences how we perceive authority and how the government should operate.

Individualized morality presents itsfel in people who place value on the rights of individual people, while group-based morality focuses more on what is best for a group. In general, conservatives prioritize the group-based approach (what is best for the country) and progressives the individualized view (what is best for each person).

So as our communities become more polarized, not only do we not understand our individual priorities and stories, but we do not fathom our opposing views of government and see the other side as a threat to the nation itself.

It is harder than we might think to bring people together in this situation – we have created a country of groupthink environments. We are self-segregating at a far higher percentage than in the last few decades. The only way, really, to reduce our growing us versus them mentalities is to bring people together from distinct backgrounds and political perspectives to at least create understanding.

Like the city of Edmonds, groups from across the country are trying to encourage dialogue and mutual learning.

So here is the beginning of my “I am Edmonds” story:

Benjamin Franklin’s legacy, the Liberty Bell, the first American flag, and the Declaration of Independence encircled me during my youth, literally and figuratively. My brother and I were born in the birthplace of our nation, Philadelphia, to Puerto Rican parents who moved to the mainland to pursue higher education and a different life. The city and its incredibly diverse population represent the beauty that is the “pursuit of happiness” and, despite moving west, my city of origin still dictates how I see our potential as a country.

We have until early August to submit to “I Am Edmonds” and, considering how much history we have in this city and in this area of the country, the richness of those stories could truly demonstrate, in the words of the Dalai Lama, “We are all the same human beings.”

 

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