LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. (WFLA) – The pollical divide we’re seeing across the country has some Longboat Key residents deeply concerned for the future of our country.
Republicans and Democrats on the island are taking action with a project ‘aimed at securing the survival of our democracy.’ They’re calling the initiative the ‘Miracle on the Key’.
The idea first came about early this year, not long after the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“I think everybody was feeling stressed out by the terrible climate in the country with people yelling at each other and calling each other names,” said the president of the Longboat Key Democratic Club Edward Sabol. “There is no talking. There is no sharing ideas, figuring things out and that is really what inspired us,” he continued.
“We are all concerned about America and where we are headed right now. If we don’t get civil conversations going, are we ever going to succeed long-term,” questioned Scott Gray who is the president of the Republican Club of Longboat Key.
The project has involved a series of meetings over the last several months. The clubs even brought in a conflict resolution expert to help and serve as a mediator.
“When January 6 happened, it happened to all of us. It happened to both Democrats and Republicans, it happened to all peoples that call themselves Americans and it changed what we think about America,” said Dr. Racelle Weiman.
Weiman is a facilitator in conflict resolution. She has worked in about 40 countries around the world helping bring people together. She tells 8 On Your Side most of her work is in Holocaust and genocide studies.
When she first met with each club separately, she saw a sincere willingness to work and make a change. She’s been volunteering her time during the meetings since early this year.
“I normally don’t volunteer for these kinds of things because it is my profession, but there’s moments and times where you just say let’s just go with the flow. We are all hurting as Americans and this is a very specific American issue because we are struggling with what American democracy looks like and what America will be for tomorrow,” said Dr. Weiman.
She believes an interventionist is necessary for these types of meetings.
“You have to talk about the hard issues, what hurts us, what is important, why we think this is valuable. I am telling people how you can comfortably go to the uncomfortable places that you have to talk about if you’re going to make solutions. Otherwise, you continue to talk about superfluous and frivolous ideas,” said Dr. Weiman.
Gray said it has made a big difference having a mediator in the room.
“It was a brilliant idea to bring her in. She disarmed us at first. We didn’t start trying to solve any political problems at first, we started to find common ground and she had us do that very rapidly and it worked really well,” said Gray.
Sabol agreed. “There have been ups and downs. We have worked our way through some tight stuff, but overall I think it has worked incredibly well. We have a better appreciation for each other now, a better understanding, and the ability to talk about just about any issue,” said Sabol.
The two groups found common ground in issues involving immigration, the environment, education, and the economy.
“These are all big issues that we can sit down and talk about, but if you’re not talking and listening, you’re never gonna get there,” said Gray.
“Dividing the country is not going to make it better. It is bringing the country together and that is what we are trying to do,” said Sabol.
The two groups plan to continue their meetings moving forward and hope others will take note of their success and follow in their footsteps.
“What can we do as Americans to help leave our country better off for our offspring? That is what it is all about,” said Gray.