CIG Panel on the Presidential Election event recap

By: Rapheal Mathis, Communications Intern

Edited by: Deni Kamper

Please Click to Watch the Panel Discussion on Youtube

On June 26th, different leaders from around the Chicagoland area came together during the Chicago Interfaith Gathering’s Day 2 panel to discuss the current election, the political rhetoric associated with it, and how it is affecting minority communities. Each speaker had something unique to bring to the table and shared their experiences dealing with the rhetoric of the presidential race.

Reverend Dirk Ficca started off the evening reiterating several quotes from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and talking about the danger that is associated with this kind of dialogue becoming common practice. The fact that Trump’s comments have not ended his political run is surprising to all and made Ficca ask: What is really going on? He believes the answer is charisma. Ficca explained that in times of social distress it is candidates’ charisma that draws people. He reasons that candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are so captivating because they voice the people’s distress and give people hope. Fica stresses that it is time for us to realize the source of their charisma is our own internal yearning. It is the power of their words that sparks something in their respective constituencies and causes them to rally. There is, however, a distinct difference between the messages of these two candidates. Bernie Sanders is concerned about how people and institutions act and whether they use the political system the right way, while Donald Trump is interested in the politics of identity. Ficca offered the solution of actually sitting down and understanding each other. By starting at the local level and, as communities, collectively establishing trusting relationships, we can begin to humanize people and understand why we have differences. He urges us “not have a politics of identity, but a politics of solidarity.”

The night then transitioned to a panel discussion between Juan Salgado, the President and CEO of Instututo Del Progreso Latino, Hind Makki, the Founder of Side Entrance, and Mark Baldwin the Executive Editor of Rockford Register Star.

In his discussion, Juan Salgado uncovered that through human connection we begin to really understand the world in a better way. He stressed that with so much media out there, it is easy for people to consume the same type of news and never seek out information that may challenge their beliefs. Salgado believes it is important for people to unite and “do purposeful things, tied to practical things.”

Hind Makki talked about how important it is to understand the thought processes of people different from us. She reveals that there are some white Americans who may have felt disenfranchised for the past eight years and are ready for someone totally different from President Obama. Makki believes it is important to remember that we as the people can control the political climate. She also talked about Republicans who have said many racist and xenophobic things and how critical it is to work together to combat that rhetoric. She stands by the belief that sharing and amplifying stories of positive interaction will help expel the harmful discourse that has come about in 2016.

Mark Baldwin explained that even at the local level there is the issue of negative political rhetoric and in order to overcome this rhetoric there needs to be dialogue. He makes the point that “dialogue does not solve problems or end debate on important issues but it provides a way to get an important conversation unstuck to embrace nuance, produces reflection, and builds relationships among people who may disagree. It uncovers shared experiences and common values.” Baldwin says in a campaign that is being built on dividing people, it’s important to have conversations that unify people. He presents the practice of asking certain things of the media we are exposed to in order to be informed and civically literate. In doing this we have the opportunity to become more open minded and begin to tear down the outrageous things some candidates may say.

The speaker and the panelists all seem to echo the same message of solidarity and really drive home a message that in order to better grasp our world, we can start by interacting with those different from us in our community. It is at this point that we can create a culture that encourages healthy dialogue that will lead to the changes we as a society want to see in the political process.

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