What Political Agenda?

12.6.2012

By Benjamin Lindsay

Julie Winokur’s ‘Bring It to the Table’ defies party stereotypes to highlight humanity

When subjects such as gay marriage or anything else that you personally have a stance on, what was that dialogue like? Would you pose your thoughts on the matter and have an open discussion with the interviewee, or was it mostly just you asking questions and trying to figure out where they’re coming from?
It’s mostly trying to figure out where they’re coming from and trying to really ask the questions I’m curious about. There’s an entirely different approach to a conversation when you’re not trying to prove your point—where you’re trying to understand somebody else’s point.

One person at the table gave me a great quote where he said, “In America, our idea of listening is waiting for the other person to finish speaking.” And it’s true: that’s not what listening is about. Listening is really about trying to comprehend, engage, probe, understand. So my job at the table, I feel, was to say, ‘Wow, you’re so adamantly opposed to gay marriage. Why? Help me to understand why. What have you seen? What have you experienced?  How does it threaten you? Why?’

Do you recall any particularly difficult interviews?
The hardest ones are the people who aren’t really thoughtful and aren’t really engaging in an authentic way. They’re spewing the same catchphrases that they’re fed from various media channels. And I can tell immediately when they start because they’re on a soapbox, and they want to prove something. And then I just hear all the catchphrases.

Do you believe that hyper-partisanship is a pertinent issue among voters, or is that an issue mostly within the House?
I think that many people are not being given much of an option, unfortunately. We have this two party system that is so reductionist; the media is doing an inadequate job in sticking to important issues; and I think that people are frustrated on both sides. They want to see progress. They don’t want to just see stasis. At all levels—rural, urban, red state, blue state—I think we’ve got a lot of really thoughtful people in this country. Ultimately, the one thing we all agree on is the fact that we all want what’s best for the country. We all want to see America be the greatest country it can be.

There’s a lot that we agree on. So let’s take the conversation and shift it so we can start from a place of consensus, and then let’s see how far we can get in the consensus before we start to really have the friction of how to get the results of that consensus.

And where do you see Bring it to the Table going today?
It was never intended to be just about the election—hyper-partisanship is not going away. The divisiveness is really problematic, and it’s hurting our democracy. So moving forward, we plan to launch a university tour—the hope is to take this to college campuses across the country over the course of the next year and moving forward. If we get adequate support, we would love to continue shooting and develop a long-form documentary, and we really want people to engage on the website and through Facebook because we do have the tools on the website to be able to link into your Facebook community and have conversations that are ongoing around these topics that can ratchet up really thoughtful conversation. Ideally, this is a catalyst for a bigger movement.

Can you be religious and support gay marriage? Watch below:

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This interview has been edited and condensed.
To bring The Table to your community or university in 2013 contact Kimberly Soenen at [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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