Against dialogues?

Published 10:55 pm Monday, May 14, 2018

By Joe Bass

I usually write about social challenges in the United States. There are many world-wide challenges, but we need to overcome our own problems instead of focusing on others outside our borders.

To overcome our national problems, we must develop a level of unity and consensus about what causes the problems and what must be done to overcome them. Currently, we are nowhere near achieving that. Most improvement recommendations involve having civil dialogues. For example, recently a column in these pages recommended the same thing. It was written by Tom Purcell and titled “Embracing our lost sense of humor.”


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In that light, I propose a group with the resources stage dialogues in a central Suffolk location addressing specific challenges. Regarding the word “dialogue,” I mean two people with different points of view expressing their thoughts in timed segments on the same public stage. I do not mean a panel discussion staged by a group driving a biased agenda with panel members holding the same views. No progress has been made with many such discussions held in the past.

Maybe a civic group could sponsor true dialogues. Maybe they could be held in the City Council chambers and televised for people to watch at home. If that were to happen, I volunteer to be a speaker dealing with a variety of social challenges. I think the most important topic I can represent involves the negative impacts of welfare on black Americans. If you read some of my previous editorials on this paper’s website, you know I think the war on poverty is the source of most of our social problems today. Continuing to promote such efforts is only making a bad situation worse.

But I need to let any group that promotes such an effort know that it is unlikely to find a person willing to dialogue in a public arena about the opposite of my view. After years of trying, I have found that people who promote social welfare programs only want to speak in biased arenas in which no one speaks against them and promotes alternative solutions.

For example, several years ago a group conducted a “unity parade” in downtown Suffolk. The Suffolk News-Herald article about the parade featured me walking with a local pastor. The article stated we exchanged contact information and committed to further discussions about race relations in Suffolk. I contacted the pastor several times, proposing we talk over coffee, and all of my efforts resulted in silence.

I have made several other attempts to meet over coffee with leaders of groups that promote welfare programs, and the same pattern of silence has been the result. I can only assume parades, walks, and so on are only for show to promote a biased agenda, but there is no willingness to publicly dialogue about possible solutions.

There are complaints from some people about not being respected. This is one of the reasons. How can a group be respected when it is unwilling to dialogue in a public arena on our many social challenges?

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at