The evil twin of MULTICULTURALISM known as IDENTITY POLITICS has taken over. Division and discord rule our discourse.

TALK IS CHEAP: A Toolbox for Dialogue

Prison life has brought into focus many of the mysteries I see in modern society as it enters this post-Rationalist/Humanist Age with all the anxiety that accompanies such momentous upheaval.

Photo by Valentino Funghi on Unsplash

This essay constitutes my response to a request for a thought piece on our society’s need for people who are equipped to civilly debate opposing views by The Friends of the San Quentin News.

Upon my return from a six-year stint at San Quentin State Prison, I look at the world with new eyes. What I learned in prison was civil discourse is needed to bridge the dialog gap found in our politics.

We are about to enter a new phase of post-election discord. I understand and deploy tools to help weave our community of citizens together, in dialog.

I endorse the aspiration that “Exchanging new ideas, holding our government accountable, and living together peacefully despite differing views all rest on our ability to exercise free speech in a culture of toleration.”

While ‘talk is cheap,’ freedom of speech is priceless.

Prison operates on lines of force and principles unacknowledged beyond its walls. What I discovered in prison the modern world calls ‘identity politics’ where folk communities bound together by deep cultural, geographic, and ethnic ties are the organizing entities. In prison, we did it ‘old school’ calling them gangs. The same mechanism that disrupts civil dialog — using Justified True Belief (which must rely upon another Justified Belief for its support thereby creating an infinite regress *Read David Deutch’s The Beginning of Infinity) instead of Objective Knowledge as authority — controls in prison ‘politics’(actual term for race relations in prison jargon).

I see these same dynamics at work in the real world — only driven by electronic media delivered by smartphones. On the outside, we call them identity politics constituencies. One such constituency has orchestrated the takeover of the Republican Party, Jacksonian America, evidenced by Donald J. Trump’s election. However, this mechanism is deployed by many constituencies and had taken over our modern political discourse.

What I have discovered upon my return to the world (after 6+ years in San Quentin), we no longer have a community of citizens. The evil twin of MULTICULTURALISM known as IDENTITY POLITICS has taken over. Division and discord rule our discourse. I seek to deploy tools to help weave our community of citizens together, in dialog.

I have always been a man of service from church to community. In San Quentin, I was the Managing Editor or the San Quentin News — publishing 30,000 newspapers a month. Today, my service consisted of joining and participating in Braver Angels events (previously known as Better Angels), reading books like Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell, and using the tools I find in these sources to participate in civil political discourse.


I participate in numerous Braver Angels events. Braver Angels is a nationwide bipartisan citizens’ movement started in 2016 dedicated to bringing red and blue Americans together in a working alliance to depolarize America. To understand the key ability to depolarize a debate, join Braver Angels. It will make our nation a better place. If you’d like to ‘test drive’ a workshop, watch Braver Angels Red-Blue Workshop with Van Jones on CNN.

Van Jones

Braver Angels Mission:
Braver Angels is a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America.
We try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it.
We engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together.
We support principles that bring us together rather than divide us.


The goal is simply to create a space and method for people who disagree to talk politics, conversations that have become surprisingly rare. A 2017 study by political scientists at the University of California at Davis found that three in four Americans almost exclusively talk politics with people with whom they agree. More and more, Americans avoid discussing politics with people they know hold opposite views — if they mix with them at all. The Atlantic, December 2018

If not everyone can participate in Braver Angels events, then I suggest you read Gladwell’s, Talking to Strangers, released in September 2019. It examines interactions with strangers, with the most interesting mix of examples that include the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia case at Penn State, and the heartbreaking death of Sandra Bland. It challenges the assumptions we are programmed to make when encountering strangers and the potentially dangerous consequences of misreading people we don’t know. Now, the OTHER includes those with differing political views, Talking to Strangers is a must-read for the new decade if we seek to bridge the growing divide in our political discourse.

My realization upon participating in the Braver Angels events and reading Talking to Strangers is that we sit in judgment in our modern secular world. As we have decoupled from religious institutions/teaching as the moderator of judgment, we now are unhinged. What used to be the harsh righteous indignation of the pious is now manifested in progressive wokeness and nativism.

My hope is that with tools expressed in Talking to Strangers and groups like Braver Angels we can learn again to be a community of citizens with differing believes in dialog to achieve a common good.

Martin Luther King Jr.

“And we must know on some positions, cowardice asks the question, ‘is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

According to Braver Angels Platform,

How much grassroots success is necessary for us to influence the nation as a whole? Probably the best answer is one percent. Research shows that one percent of the people in a community, if organized and motivated, can significantly influence that community. We estimate that, for Braver Angels, the one percent tipping point is about 1.5 to 2 million involved and committed Americans. That’s our long-term goal. To reach it, we will set intermediate goals along the way, and in the next 12 months, we will strive to develop new and online offerings to make the Braver Angels experience available not just to thousands, but to millions of Americans each year. Braver Angels 2019 Platform

Find out about Braver Angels of the Bay Area events here.

Father, attorney, essayist, thinker, and active manager who found the courage to create through the chrysalis of San Quentin prison.

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