Progressively Speaking: How fragmented is British society?

Progressively Speaking: How fragmented is British society?

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers looks at how we can best unite in the fallout of Brexit and the General Election

We have seen over the past few weeks divisions highlighted between rich and poor, left and right, and a growing sense that minority communities (including our own) are being misrepresented, deepening isolation.

The Scottish Referendum, Brexit, and the last election have reminded us we are not a nation readily able to agree. This division was felt well before the election, and the increase in hate crimes has made many minority communities fear it.

Fierce debate and political discussion has taken on a new nuance, and I’ve been shocked by the inability of many to gracefully disagree.

Online, people feel free to abuse others for supporting the other side.

Emotions run high, and most act out of a desire for good. Yet we seem incapable of disagreeing with respect, or to understand that disagreement can help us reach better decisions.

Our Judaism shows us how to be better than this. The Talmud demonstrates another way of debating; the conversation is sometimes more important than the conclusion, and minority opinion is always recorded.

Generations converse on the same page, and disagree vehemently; they are trying to fathom how to live their Judaism well in their generation.

The conversation continues instead of being shut down.

Arguments are for the sake of heaven, but also for those of us on earth; when we disagree, we must see the humanity of the other.

Events that allow us to enjoy our diversity and celebrate what we have in common are a great starting point.

Having difficult conversations about things we care passionately about is a challenge. But we must learn to disagree better as a community, and as a society, if we are to heal and move forward productively.

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers is community educator at Reform Judaism

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