Controversy, Conversation, and Cold Brews

In a divided nation, what can unite people from different sides of the political aisle?

Conversation—and a beer, of course.

At least that’s the premise of a new Cleveland-centric event series, “Craft Beer & Conversation.” Megan Anderson, a Lakewood resident, started these conversations with one simple goal—to get people talking about issues with others whose viewpoints don’t necessarily align with theirs. “If we don’t talk to other individuals, especially those who have a different opinion from our own, we can never progress as a society if we don’t at least gain a basic understanding as to why that opposing opinion exists,” Anderson said.

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“I want to hear from people I don’t agree with because that informs me,” said Ian Lynch, a local pastor who attended the first event. “It’s all about trying to find solutions to problems, not win battles.” Lynch said had an extensive dialogue with a Libertarian at the first event, which isn’t typical for him as a member of the Green Party.

“Libertarians and Greens often find themselves agreeing on things from completely different directions,” Lynch said. “Libertarians might say we shouldn’t get involved in war because we should just all be taking care of ourselves and not involved with the rest of the world. And I oppose a war because I think killing is wrong.”

The kickoff event didn’t have a particular theme but simply asked attendees to sit with strangers and talk about anything on their mind. While people enjoyed themselves, they expressed a desire for more moderation and to stick to one topic, which is how Anderson now runs the conversation series. Each time Anderson organizes these conversations, the participants address a new hot-button issue.

March focused on immigration, and this month’s Craft Beer & Conversation is about gender equality. “Guests are given unbiased questions at the beginning of the event but then each discussion group sets off on their own conversation adventure from that point and get to take ownership of the experience they want,” Anderson said.

For many attendees, taking ownership of the event means taking ownership of how important it is to agree to disagree. Lynch, who is from Massachusetts, says Ohio is unique because there are so many different opinions across the spectrum. When he was in Massachusetts, he found most conversations skewed liberal. “Here, with their being such a split in political views and social views, learning how to have good dialogue is important,” Lynch said.

“I know of countless individuals who attended this event a bit apprehensive about whether they would have anything to contribute or if they would feel brave enough to share what was on their mind – and all of these individuals walked away from the event feeling more confident and surprised that they were indeed capable of contributing, had learned something new from a stranger at their table, and felt more empowered to start more conversations with fellow community members on their own,” Anderson said.

If you want to join in the fun, RSVP on the Facebook event, and head to The BottleHouse in Cleveland Heights on Sunday at 4 p.m. Attendees at Sunday’s event will determine the next craft beer conversation. “Everyone is surveyed post-event and are given the opportunity to contribute a topic for future events that would be of interest to them,” Anderson said.

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