Brian O'Sullivan, Zoon Garden’s Head of Online Sales, has lived in many different places. “I went to high school in Massachusetts and New Hampshire – I spent time in New York before college, then the first year of college in Indiana and finally finishing in New York City. I’ve been to 40 states. All that is to say, I think that the biggest thing I can tell you is people are not as different as we like to think.”
Today’s media has become a culturally divisive force. Different political groups control their own news channels, and each side attacks the other for spreading “fake news” or using biased sources. Evidence is often skewed to one side or the other to support a political ideology, forcing Americans to choose a version of reality which suits their political beliefs.
“The media plays up this idea that the other side is evil,” says O’Sullivan. “If you go to Manhattan and you ask someone about a Trump supporter, they would be hard pressed to think about someone who they’re very close with who’s on that side – and vice versa.”
It’s easy to categorize people by their political beliefs – after all, what’s more indicative of a person’s values than their choice of a leader? But it’s essential to remember that although these decisions matter, every constituent comes to the voting booth with a different set of deep, complicated contexts. We all have different “bottom lines,” or issues that we prioritize due to their personal nature. For some people, that issue is human rights. For others, it’s abortion. For still others, it’s the economy. These values can be based in cultural, emotional, or religious backgrounds, or something else entirely. But there’s one thing we all share: our aspirations for a better life.
“I think the best way to form connection is to assume the best in the person across from you,” says O’Sullivan. “You may disagree with something, but there’s a very good chance you come from a similar place. There are more good people in this world than bad people. Debate isn’t a bad thing. It’s just this idea that we have to talk more. We have to understand why people believe things.”
The Zoon Garden Promotional Bus Tour aims to do exactly that: to reach out, to listen, to understand. And hopefully, to bring us all a little bit closer.
“What we need to do, and hopefully what the book tour will do, is allow people to step back and say, ‘Okay. Let’s have a conversation about why we believe what we believe,’” says O’Sullivan. “What experiences did we have that shaped our views of the world? What people were we surrounded by? What was our family like, what was our hometown like? When we share those experiences with the person that’s sitting across us, they may not agree with [our beliefs], but they can see where we’re coming from.”
We don’t have to agree with one another. But Zoon Garden is all about seeing from new perspectives – about opening that conversation. We’ll see you soon.