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CRITICAL ISSUES AFFINITY GROUPBy Blog Master
CRITICAL ISSUES AFFINITY GROUP
Are you interested in current events and how to interpret them? If so, you may want to read about Pasadena Village's “Critical Issues Group”. Read on.
Back in November, 2016, Mike Babcock, a founding member of Pasadena Village, had an idea for a group. He put out the word – “Would anyone be interested in a discussion group on current events?” He had struck a nerve. More than 30 members responded with enthusiasm. The result: the Critical Issues Affinity Group was formed, with long time Village member Esther Gillies joining Mike as facilitators.
So how does the group work? The first step is to find a topic that is current, that has the potential to pique interest, and that addresses an issue that had at least two debatable sides to it. Mike and Esther are always on alert for a good topic, and members are also encouraged to submit ideas, usually gleaned from newspaper articles found, for example, in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, or local Pasadena newspapers. Mike and Esther then review the articles, choose an “article of the month”, and distribute it to group members a week or so before the monthly meeting. The advanced distribution gives everyone a chance to reflect on the content of the discussion topic.
As for the meetings themselves, Village member Esther Gillies has the following observations. “People share their ideas and experiences and listen to others with respect. Sometimes those in the group can be of the same mind about a hot topic, but they still can differ in their insights and different feelings. There is no 'one-upsmanship' and very little talking over one another. It is clear that the members respect each other and are eager to hear, as well as share, their viewpoints.”
Esther adds “While not focusing on 'the good old days', the members often do enhance a discussion by reflecting on the places and times of their childhood. The passage of time, and having lived through many political crises, can enrich a discussion and add necessary context to difficult topics.”
Ideally, each meeting results in a friendly debate on the topic at hand. But what if all of the participants agree? April's meeting ended up just this way with the participants in the same boat on the issues discussed (the obfuscation of war and Covid vaccine conspiracy theories). The group then began discussing how to do a better job of gathering people with different views on the chosen topics. The group was quite excited about the possibilities, and there were even some ideas of who would monitor such meetings. In this way, the group took ownership for improving the way they conduct their meetings. No wonder they've been around for almost six years!
In the beginning the group met in the Social Room at the Village office. But when Covid struck, the group had to meet via Zoom. More recently, as Covid restrictions have eased, group members can choose whether to join a meeting in person or via Zoom. Both methods have their benefits. Members who meet in person can enjoy the stimulation of seeing each other face to face around a table. The Zoom option allows for including members who prefer to participate from home.
Of the group's approximately 30 members, 15 to 20 usually participate in each meeting. Topics cover such areas as social issues, political issues, issues related to the pandemic, and other “hot topics”. Examples include:
- “The Constitution isn’t Working” from the publication The Hill
- “How a Black Pasadena Family’s Challenge to White-only Real Estate Covenants Culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Landmark Ruling Outlawing Them Across America” from the local paper Pasadena Now
- “McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us” from the New York Times
- “America Is Now the Divided Republic the Framers Feared” from The Atlantic
- “How old is too old to be president? We are entering uncharted waters” from the Los Angeles Times
- “ Starving Children Don’t Cry” from the Los Angeles Times
Sound interesting? Keep an eye out on the Village calendar for the next meeting. The meetings are typically held every second Wednesday of the month from about 3:30 to 5:00 pm.
If you are not currently a member, we hope to hear from you soon.