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It's finally happened. Not unlike seeing the mileage on your car turning 100,000 - or 200,000! - miles, I have been watching my email inbox for a new milestone, and this week it happened: I have more than 50,000 unread emails, out of 61,933 total.
The ones I do read are very important - personal messages from family and friends, concert announcements, Daily Nosh recipes, poems of the day, sales promos from The Container Store, Facebook and Twitter notifications, sports announcements, and countless updates ranging from trusted news outlets to marketing and content management gurus to travel sites to organizations I follow such as Writing for Peace and Lighthouse Writers Workshop.
Sprinkled among these are cause-related newsletters, some uplifting, some disturbing, some entertaining, and some, I clearly realize now, that I have no idea where they came from.
Oh, I have cleared out my inbox before, using various techniques to delete wide swaths of emails at one time, and I'll do that again soon. But for now I'm devoting some inbox space to a new practice I learned from David Leonhardt, op-ed columnist for The New York Times: Resist the coarsening of discourse by grappling with a political issue that I find vexing.
In his column, "A Summer Project to Nourish Your Political Soul," Leonhardt says that "...righteousness comes easily in these polarized times ... The more we talk politics, the more confident we can become that we're right ... Too often recently I have watched people I respect spiral from a political discussion into a nasty, personal argument."
Certainly, there are issues about which we all have strong positions, and nothing is going to change our opinions. Leonhardt, however, urges us to consider an issue we find complicated. "Choose one on which you're legitimately torn or harbor secret doubts. Read up on it. Don't rush to explain away inconvenient evidence," he says. "Then do something truly radical: Consider changing your mind, at least partially."
Immigration is one of these issues for me. My grandparents came to the U.S. from Romania around the turn of the 20th century, through Canada into Montana. They eventually settled in Chicago, where my mother was born in 1918. To this day, there is a thriving Romanian community that speaks the language, cooks the food, worships in the Orthodox church, and contributes to the society they helped build. Immigration is part of my own history, as it is for most of us.
I also believe that illegal immigration is a problem. I know too that immigrants do work that American citizens don't want to do or can't be found to do. I know that the process to immigrate legally can take years, and is likely to increase in the current political climate. For me, there is also the question of offering asylum for people fleeing for their lives from their own home countries.
So I'll be seeking differing points of view as I embrace consideration on the immigration issue, filling my inbox with different newsletters and reaching out to other organizations ... nourishing my political soul, as Leonhardt says, with contemplation and reflection.
I invite you to email me with your own thoughts, resources, or links. Who knows, I may break 100,000 emails before the end of summer.
Andrea Doray is a writer who would like to know what issues you find perplexing, and how you might nourish your own political soul. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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