Soon after the election, I e-mailed AID’s listserv to say that "Based on exit poll data, which shows a painfully divided country, I think it is simply being honest to say that many of us in the red and blue states simply do not understand one another… I really believe that the only way that we as a nation can develop a sustainable and effective foreign policy is if we begin to understand and respect the different viewpoints in our country and search out opportunities for common ground. On that note, I think it is critical that we as an organization devise broad, inclusive, and constructive initiatives that can unite Americans of divergent viewpoints in discussion of the future of our foreign policy."

AID members responded with over fifty e-mails and calls to respond to this call for ideas… here are some of the responses I received:

Open Letters to the President

"[N]ow that the election is over, i think that the closeness of it requires a reevaluation of American’s foreign policy of the last four years. The idea would be for differnet groups to write an Open Letter to George Bush in which they outline what they think has been successful about his foreign policy and what they think needs to be changed, either because it’s the right thing to do or because of public opinion.

…It would of course have to be civil in tone (i.e. congratulating him on his win, being objective and not passionate) but I think it would help people reevaluate what we as a country voted for and what should be kept and what should be change regarding our foreign policy. These Open Letters would then be submitted to campus newspapers, etc. so that they can be read by the general public."

A Red, White, and Blue Coming Together Tour

"I think the idea of a Red, White and Blue Coming Together Tour is fanstastic for a number of reasons. First, it will solidify those who decide to be on the tour, making this group even stronger and more coherent than before. Second, face to face contact with people unlike ourselves is the only real way to understand them, and understading other people is the first step in getting them to understand us. Also, people who meet each other on the tour from different states can keep in touch long after the tour is over, and use those connections to create and carry out other ideas.

Our nation is clearly divided – coasts against middle, urban against rural, republican against democrat. The major issue, which no one predicted, was morals. I agree fully with whoever it was that said we share a great deal more in common than we all suspect, and the tour would be a great way to get people to realize that.

… Finally, just a small little idea, is the formation of a ‘book club’ of sorts. If people meet periodically to discuss a certain book – benjamin barber, for instance – then people will be able to discuss issues without feeling that they have to protect their turf, as one caller pointed out..

I think it is very important to stay the course of focusing on international issues. However, I beleive it is possible to incorporate this new aspect of a country divided on these issues into the existing framework of the organization. "

Some Reflections on AID’s Future

"It seems to me that it is very important to reach out to republicans – to establish a rhetoric that doesn’t only speak to the left.  For instance, the organization seems to use the words ‘unilateral’ to describe the administration’s policies, and ‘multilateral’ to convey our belief of how things ought to be.  It is my opinion that words such as these simplify the situation and alienate the republican base.  First, it suggests that there is no coalition in Iraq, which angers many republicans (even though it is my belief that there isn’t one, as we are pulling the great majority of the military and economic ‘burden’).  Second, the two words have become associated with partisan politics.  And third, by putting these two words at odds, it somehow suggests that the left is not willing to stand up for the nation without the support of the rest of the world…

So, it is my belief that the rhetoric and direction of the organization ought to be somewhat modified, in an attempt to reach out to the republican majority.  As Lincoln said in his Temperance speech, ‘If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.’ "

" I think that one of the biggest problems during this election has been the issue of morality and religion (according to the latest polls I’ve seen). The red states were particularly mobilized on that issue in voting for President Bush while the blue states seemed mostly concerned about Iraq. There is a lack of understanding and overabundance of rhetoric on this within the American community and yet I don’t think we have really seen a civilized factual discussion on this. It’s very polarized and I think AID should do something with this topic to help people on both sides better understand where the other stands."

"I am deeply concerned about the current division in our country, and regardless of partisanship, I want to help bridge the gap that exists with mutual understanding and basic respect for diverse opinions.  If there are going to be an initiatives that deal with this issue or any related topics, please let me know and I will do my utmost to try and help re-unite our country and strengthen bonds between people from all parts of political and social spectrums.  I can say that even here at the University, there is a great division between fairly understanding and accepting youngsters over this election and the values behind it."

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