Of echo chambers and silos

Oh my.

It seems my relentless expressed opposition to President-Elect Trump has led some friends and family to distance themselves from me. A family member sent me this e-mail:

“I was forced to unfollow u on Facebook. I will miss pics of your grandchild n family but as much as I love u I can’t handle your whining diarrhea of political bs. U know how to reach me otherwise n I look forward to seeing u n yours. I pray the serious n severe rift in the family doesn’t grow deeper. God bless America n its most generous people.”


So now we turn only to those with whom we agree. We visit only websites that feed our bias. We visit only with friends and family that are willing partners in building our silos for our ideas.

Too bad.


I happen to proudly live in a community that is very left-of-center. “Progressive”, some may call it.

I work for the local County government, with all elected officials from the Democrat Party. My wife works for the Federal Government, in HIV/AIDS no less – a bastion of progressive thinking. Our community has a very high concentration of people from the ‘do-good industries’: non-profits, federal agencies, progressive think tanks, and the like.

Therefore, my personal exposure is mostly to people that think like me – or at least have similar opinions… Not that we sing kumbaya all the time. Indeed, we can be as dysfunctional, as mean, as outrageous as anyone anywhere…

Yet, there is are certain common outlook on life that most of us spouse binding us together in the community where we live. And, many in our extended family and friends throughout the country (and the world) share similar outlook. But others obviously don’t.

Our outlook is rooted in an understanding of humanity as a positive force. An understanding that most people are good people, regardless of their personal individual experience – and regardless in what part of the globe they live or where they are from.

This outlook is rooted in an understanding that community matters; that caring for each other is a good thing; and that institutions and governments are expected to be participants in doing good.

This outlook is also rooted in an expansive, outward, inquiring approach to life. We don’t know everything. Absolutes are rare – if not non-existent. Data, facts, research – science – help form our outlook. (For some of us, faith and science are not incompatible – they ultimately affirm each other.)

For most of us in this community our outlook is shaped by life experiences that include extensive interaction with people from elsewhere and from across the economic spectrum – either directly or indirectly. Most of us have a life story that have taken us to places beyond our comfort zone, either physically or metaphorically.

And for those in our community that have been around here a long time, for many generations, the outlook is one of welcoming the new people as a positive and constructive ‘value added’ to the community.


This outlook on life is in stark contrast from an outlook on life based on absolutes, simple answers, and strict dogma.

Our outlook on life is in stark contrast of the outlook on life based on experiences where you perceive others have done you wrong, others are getting free rides, and others want to take over.

Our outlook on life is in stark contrast from those who rather hang around only those like them; who don’t think there is anything to be learned from others they did not grow up with or from those that just landed on our shores.


If your outlook on life is based on what others have done to you rather than what you can do for others, then we have different outlook.

If your outlook is framed by hard edges and strictly defined rules, then it is indeed tough for us to talk.

If your outlook is that we need different people seating at the decision-making table rather than – paraphrasing Ike Leggett our County Executive in Montgomery County, MD – what we need is to make the table bigger and invite others that think unlike us to help us make decisions, then we certainly have different outlook.


(Unfortunately, I get the sense that these words are being read by my own echo chamber and silo being created willingly or unwillingly by me and us…)

Regardless, onwards we must go.