The cheers and sighs, the clapping and the cringing are over for the time being. The candidates have spoken, the citizens have taken note. Not an ordinary night in Albany, but a night where nearly 300 gathered to express their collective curiosity. “Who are these guys?” “Which person’s vision will revitalize the country?”
After the televised debate, Professor of Cognitive Linguistics, George Lakoff took questions and reflected on the drama we had just seen. His analysis–both simple and complex–seemed more stimulating than the wrap-up on TV. (Incidentally, the main hall and foyer of the community center and the Edith Stone Room were filled to capacity, with 3 TV screens running.)
Dr. Lakoff showed how our own political speech and notions of justice and fairness spring from our frames of reference. He challenged us to discover our own moral imperatives and push our representatives to do the same. He exposed the folly of enlightenment rationality that supposes the “best argument” should win the debate. As he points out in The Little Blue Book, people rarely look to logic for persuasion. Rather, it is the “look of understanding and the tone of empathy” that wins. (Of course, it doesn’t take an H. L. Mencken to point out how often this empathy is fake, or how the handshakes get heartier when there are dollars pressed between.)
The Debate Watch on Tuesday was a hit for the whole community. The City of Albany, Alameda County Library, The Friends of the Albany Library deserve a huge round of applause for providing space, tech-savvy, staffing and funds to create this Town Hall Meeting. Catherine Taylor, who arranges the Second Tuesdays Poetry Series, was central to the evening’s success. Her interest in the way ordinary people speak of politics prompted her to suggest Dr. Lakoff as a guest speaker. We were pleased to have Pegasus Books on site to sell “The Little Blue Book,” and, of course, Dr. Lakoff, his wife and guests.
It was great to have Chris Pech from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters on hand to answer questions about voter registration and the upcoming election. We were honored to have Amelia Lopez from Assembly member Nancy Skinner’s office, who told Albany Library Manager, Ronnie Davis “she was ‘blown away’ by the community response and the role that libraries play in creating this kind of community forum.” A super thanks goes to Nancy Rubin for the great photographs showing democracy in action!
Commentator Lakoff spoke of the mirroring our brains perform as observers. We form connections with others because we form connections first in the neuronal circuitry of our noggins! Watching the debate with other voters–partisan or neutral–inspires us to think and act politically; it sparks conversations, nudging us to see how others see.
Albany Library is an ideal venue for watching the debate; as it is our mission to promote life-long learning and civic engagement. (We also have many binders full of women! Albany City Council recordings, for example!)
Remember to register for this election by October 23 and to vote on or by November 6.