The last week or so a small debate has been happening over email and blog in Oly (here, here and here) about the invitation last summer of some Canadian and American ships to Lakefair. Basically a cultural clash between different sides of Olympia, its been focussed on the ships.

I tried to write my homage to Lakefair this morning on Olyblog, but I ended up shutting down the comments because, well, I didn’t like where they were going, and I didn’t want to turn my post into a open thread on why Lakefair sucks and why the Navy sucks as well.

Anyway, I’ve been bummed about the specific controversy, I’ve also been bummed about how things like this usually get handled in Olympia, with the different groups talking past each other. Its true that we’re a very engaged community, but at the same time I wish we would be more engaged with each other and not so much choosing up sides.

Peter Levine has a very appropriate post that I’ll clip some text out of. Read the entire thing though, he’s good and worth the read:

…why are public discussions so polarized and dominated by hot-button issues? The questioner came from Kansas, and she specifically mentioned local discussions of education.

First of all, we have actual disagreements that split us into groups, and we sometimes have to deal with these issues. But they seem over-represented in our public life.

This is partly because most of us lack practical experience in mobilizing people except when issues are polarized. From countless news stories and movies, we know the “script” for angry, adversarial politics. We know how to organize our allies when we are angry at another group: we can call for a march or a rally, put up flyers, alert the media. There are also techniques for organizing people around less contentious issues–ways literally to get citizens out to meetings and then to achieve social change without relying on polarization. These techniques include the “one-on-one” interviews popular in community organizing; Study Circles and other deliberative forums; and volunteering opportunities that are connected to discussion and reflection. But such techniques are not widely reported or described in fiction; even less are they taught in schools.