I thought I had given up on arguing with people on Facebook about things we would never agree on in a million years. Then I read a post on Chagrin Falls’ famous Village Block Club page and the siren song called my name.
Let me back up a minute to explain. The reason for my visit to the village block club page, or VBC, was to find out why I had encountered blocked roads at two entrances to the village while driving home from Moreland Hills one night last week.
The VBC is a good place to go for info on this kind of stuff. This time, there was nothing. But something else caught my eye as I scrolled my way through requests for plumber recommendations and pleas for babysitters.
It was the story someone had shared about a program founded in Denmark 21 years ago and brings people of different races and cultural backgrounds together for one-on-one meaningful conversation.
The goal is a better understanding between people for the greater good of the country. Denmark already knows a thing or two about “getting along.” The country declared neutrality through most of World War II. But I digress.
The program is called The Human Library, which aims to “address people’s prejudices by helping them to talk to those they would not normally meet.”
Just like libraries, volunteers of different backgrounds and experiences, races, religions, etc. loan themselves out to others for conversations that take place in a safe place, often public libraries. The U.S. has about 35 Human Libraries.
Most of those who responded to the post “loved” the idea. What’s not to love? A chance to come together and sing “Kumbaya” never gets old.
Truth to tell, everyone says they want better understanding between people, but would a Human Library here in the monochromatic Chagrin Valley draw borrowers?
My VBC response to the post was such a library, no matter where it is, would not draw “borrowers” who need it most. That would include those folks who are satisfied with their insulated world the way it is.
I got flack for that and two or three invitations for coffee to discuss why I have so little faith in my fellow man and woman.
So, OK, I’ll admit it. I am jaded. I have lived through several decades of feel-good initiatives such as this and participated in marches, demonstrations and projects designed to “solve” the understanding gap.
Nothing much has changed. In 2021 everything is a battle and we regularly encounter the simplest things that divide us.
If death at the hands of a pandemic could not bring us together for the greater good, what will? Instead, COVID-19 became another wedge issue, and wearing masks was viewed by some as a sign of weakness and an assault on freedom.
Silly me, I was remembering my parent’s joy at hearing the news a polio vaccine had been developed and how we stood in line to get one. No one thought it was a conspiracy against the American way of life.
More recently, Diversity, Equity Inclusion and Justice education policy in our school districts seemed like a no-brainer, too, but there were those who began to resist the idea before there was any plan to implement it.
There have been no “strides to better understanding” since the Civil Rights Act. Progress has moved with the speed of continental drift.
That is why I am a “glass half empty” when it comes to substantive, continual and long-lasting change. Love thy neighbor will always be a hard sell.
That doesn’t mean I don’t admire those who have faith that a more enlightened and accepting world is possible if we just talk it out. Heck, I would settle for a more enlightened and accepting Chagrin Valley.
So, next question: Is there anyone willing to prove me wrong? Will anyone be moved to organize one of these Human Libraries here in the bubble and its environs? If it is built, will anyone borrow? Or is it just another utopian fantasy we “love” to think about?