The last several election cycles have seen increasing polarization within the American political landscape: Republican/Democrat, liberal/conservative, red and blue. During the last election the acrimony associated with this split reached a level that shocked and disturbed many. To help bridge divides, Leadership San Juan will sponsor the first meeting of “Americans Together: Community Dialogue in a Divided World” on April 13.

The April 13 gathering will be the first of a three-week program designed to bring together community members with a variety of political perspectives for the purpose of open-hearted and open-minded dialogue about the issues that are dividing Americans. There will be another set of meetings in May. The gatherings will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday evenings at San Juan Community College in Farmington. Session 1 will meet April 13, 20 and 27; Session 2 will meet May 4, 11 and 18.

Laura Marshall of The Sagebrush Center for Relationship Therapy in Farmington will facilitate the meetings, with assistance from members of Leadership San Juan and students from New Mexico Highlands University School of Social Work.

Americans Together evolved in response to the painful levels of anger and distrust that have characterized our most recent national elections, Marshall said. Built on a model developed by the Peace Project of Imago Relationships International and drawing on other models of community dialogue, the project will provide a safe, structured environment for community members to explore together the controversial issues that have led to so much distrust and conflict.

“It is tragic when people don’t want to sit down to dinner with friends or family members for fear that angry political discussions will erupt,” Marshall said. “It is our hope that in bringing together people from across the political divide to talk with honesty and respect we can begin to heal the divisions that are pulling us apart. We believe that underneath the differences we share many of the same values and dreams — that we are, at heart, Americans together.”

Leadership San Juan agreed to sponsor this process because it provides an opportunity for the organization to “Lead On.”

“San Juan County has been characterized by a high level of partnerships between many organizations,” said Leadership San Juan board member Liesl Dees. “We have seen in Leadership San Juan cooperation between many people of different political beliefs, and we want to see our community strong in working together and not polarized by national discord.”

Sessions are open to anyone who lives in San Juan County.