The Seditionists Need a Path Back Into Society – The Atlantic

Here’s another idea: Drop the argument and change the subject. That’s the counterintuitive advice you will hear from people who have studied Northern Ireland before the 1998 peace deal, or Liberia, or South Africa, or Timor-Leste—countries where political opponents have seen each other as not just wrong, but evil; countries where people are genuinely frightened when the other side takes power; countries where not all arguments can be solved and not all differences can be bridged. In the years before and after the peace settlement in Northern Ireland, for example, many “peacebuilding” projects did not try to make Catholics and Protestants hold civilized debates about politics, or talk about politics at all. Instead, they built community centers, put up Christmas lights, and organized job training for young people.

This was not accidental. The literature in the fields of peacebuilding and conflict prevention overflows with words such as local and community-based and economic regeneration. It’s built on the idea that people should do something constructive—something that benefits everybody, lessens inequality, and makes people work alongside people they hate. That doesn’t mean they will then get to like one another, just that they are less likely to kill one another on the following day.

In 1930, a white Texan named Jessie Daniel Ames founded an organization called the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, a group that campaigned against anti-Black violence. Ames both intervened directly, even confronting lynch mobs in person, and engaged in education and advocacy. Her group sometimes sat uneasily alongside its northern counterparts—its members opposed federal intervention and denounced lynching, not for universal reasons but on the grounds that it was contrary to the creed of southern, white, Christian women—but it worked: In areas where the group operated, the violence went down.

The Seditionists Need a Path Back Into Society – The Atlantic