By Sam Crowell

Last Wednesday, I attended the discussion group that Hill residents Conor O’Farrell and Mark Yardas organized. It was my second time. Perhaps, like others, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but I was curious.

I enjoy the focused conversation and listening to different ideas — even ones I don’t like. I don’t like arguments though, and I especially don’t like one-ups-manship and derogatory personal attacks. It was nice to see that everyone there felt the same way and a safe, trusting environment was created.

What we did
We had agreed to watch a documentary called “The Inside Job” on our own and make it the general focus for discussion. The documentary was a disturbing look at how big banks, large investment corporations, regulatory agencies and elite government officials and academics helped create the conditions for the enormous economic collapse that has affected all of us.

It showed how the removal of relatively simple regulations that prevented banks from being speculators was pivotal and still remains unaddressed. The documentary highlighted the complicity of both Republican and Democratic administrations and the enormous power of corporate influence and globalized financial institutions. The greed, arrogance and sense of entitlement were unmistakable. All of us, whether Democrat, Republican, Independent or Libertarian, were outraged.

It was interesting to hear how people felt and to learn additional information about various aspects of the film. I enjoyed listening as individuals spoke freely and contributed to the discussion.

Where we’re going

There was a desire to make a difference both here in our community as well as in the larger scheme of things. There was discussion about the identity and purpose of this group and questions concerning processes that allow deeper, more substantive dialogue.

The discussion group left with a number of questions.

  • Who are we and how can we best make a positive impact on the issues facing us?
  • How can we listen to one another with respect, openness, and sincerity?
  • What processes will allow us to move into deeper levels of conversation and action?
  • How can we embrace our role as citizens in ways that transcend personal differences and ideology?

It seems to me that these are questions every American needs to be asking. I think I’ll attend the next meeting — I’m still hoping.