Had enough political mudslinging? Think it might have been nice for the people of Montclair to have actually sat down over the past two months and really discussed the issues facing the town, rather than name-calling?
Well so does Julie Winokur, a Montclair writer and documentary film producer who is using Kickstarter to finance a project called “Bring it to the Table,” which is designed to get people with divergent viewpoints to actually sit down and talk about the issues. The project went live on Kickstarter just a few days ago and has already raised $2,412. Her goal is $30,000 with a deadline of June 18.
Unfortunately it’s a little late for the Turner v. Jackson smackdown that ended Tuesday night. “I wish we were up and running in time to make an impact, because what really struck me was how nasty it got,” Winokur says. “All politics are local. We really could stand to have a forum where our neighbors are able to voice what they believe without being attacked.”
Oh well. But maybe Winokur can get funding in time to make a difference in the upcoming general election in November.
Bring it to the Table is a multimedia project that involves a website and video, and the video has a very specific shtick. Winokur actually carries a table out into the field — so far, in Montclair, she’s already brought her table to a local barbershop and the public library — covers it with a star-spangled tablecloth, sits an interview subject down, and gets them to talk about the issues.
It started — as Winokur says in her video — when her 17-year-old son accused her of being the most intolerant person he’d ever met. She was taken aback, but ultimately recognized that she tended to dismiss differing political views, and thus Bring It to the Table began. “I embarked on this because I realize I wasn’t listening.”
Now she is, and it’s not always easy. “To do these interviews and not push back is really a challenge,” Winokur says. She’s also learned that — not too surprisingly — centrists are the best listeners. “When people are in the broad center they’re more willing to listen. The ends of the spectrum almost don’t want to engage.”
Want to get involved? Well, Winokur plans to do several more tabletop chats in Montclair. She hasn’t decided where or when, but I’ve suggested the sidewalk across from the abortion clinic on Bloomfield Ave., where anti-abortion protesters gather, as a good place to start. We’ll try to let you know the next time Winokur takes out the table nearby. And you call follow the project on Twitter at @2thetable.
And of course, if you believe in this project and want to help Winokur and crew roll it out nationally in time for the November election, you can pitch in on the Kickstarter campaign. Pledges range from $10 up to $10,000 and awards range from a shout-out on the Bring It’s donor page to “Moderate Zealot” campaign buttons to a hand-sewn star-spangled tablecloth.
It all sounds very cool to us.