Policy of Engaged Neutrality

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    Doria Hughes

    Brava to mburch, this is beautifully put. I am 100% in agreement with you, and I greatly appreciate how thoughtfully you articulated and explained your position, and the history and trajectory of this very important issue. Thank you for sharing your invaluable perspective, especially as someone who grew up where and when you did. Your suggestions for meaningful engagement for a conference are excellent, and directly address the ethical side to this issue.

    With all the talk of politics, it is easy to forget that what we are responsible for as individuals and as an organization is not simply whether or not our discourse and behavior is politically correct, but whether or not these are in line with our morals.



    Please do not move next years or any years Story Conference in the name of political expedience! There are no groups of people, communities, states or nations that have not had extremes of good, bad, ugly, beautiful, kind or cruel policies and behaviors. While right now, immigration and abortion seem to be the Mega-Issues that are dividing us, many others have held that dubious distinction in the past, and others are bound to arise.
    If as an organization, we choose to avoid any place that supports positions that may be offensive to some, we will have a very hard time finding a place bigger than an isolated hot dog stand to meet! Please hold the next Conference where it can reach the Southern Region, then back to Kansas, and on to another region! That way many more of our vast and varied members can hope to attend!

    Bill Wight

    Posted on behalf of Bette Lou Higgins, with permission:

    Thanks, Bill. It sounds fair to me.
    Bette Lou Higgins

    Nannette Watts

    Did you consider banning California? Why not? In banning Georgia, we are saying that every member of NSN agrees politically. We do not.

    Accept the invitation to Summit in Georgia. Each individual can decide to attend or not thereby making an individual political statement.

    Stories are meant to guide the listener gently, not hit us over the head with the message. Politics need to stay out of our keynotes, classes, and wrap-up thoughts at the Summit. They are divisive.


    Having our one yearly gathering in Atlanta gives the state our approval for their actions. Staying away is the only way non Georgia voters have to express disapproval and I think NSN should take it. I fear attendance would suffer if plans to meet there wee to go ahead.

    John Capecci

    As a new member of NSN, I appreciate the organizational leadership creating this opportunity for respectful dialogue, and I read with great interest the views of members who’ve chosen to comment here. I do not, however, agree with taking the stance of “engaged neutrality,” and feel it implies support for Georgia’s oppressive and sexist legislation; holding the summit in Georgia would, as well. Rather than repeating the good arguments already made above, I’ll simply say that I, too, 100% agree with mburch and those responses that point out the failure of neutrality in the face of human rights issues. Though NSN’s intent for this forum is “NOT to debate the political issues, rather … to discuss the Policy of Engaged Neutrality,” I cannot separate the two. To discuss engaged neutrality requires us to position ourselves in relationship to the issue, as many have here. Again, because “engaged neutrality” is problematic when it comes to serious issues of human rights, attempting to limit discussion here only to the stance of engaged neutrality feels to me like a stance in itself, one that downplays the significance of this legislative act——even this broader historical moment. I and other members contend: “Neutrality is not an option because this legislation is wrong.” Do other NSN members feel, but have not expressed plainly here, that “Neutrality is a fair option because this legislation is right”? To my mind, that’s the supposedly apolitical corner into which “engaged neutrality” paints us. As others have noted, a more direct question——“How do NSN members feel about this act of legislation?” or “Does the recent legislation clash with fundamental values of NSN?”——might prove more instructive for future decision- and policy-making, as well as to the limits of organizational disengagement. Finally, I’m also interested in what differences this discussion raises among members regarding the cultural importance and power(s) of stories. I, for one, feel that not acknowledging the cultural narratives NSN would be tacitly condoning——about women, about reproductive rights, about power——implies a naïve and limited view of the force of storytelling. Meanwhile, I look forward to learning from and contributing to the NSN community, and discerning whether or not the organization is one in which I will continue as a member.

    Bill Wight

    Posted on behalf of Kanute Rarey, with permission:

    Thank you Bill for clarifying the NSN policy and for the organization response. Your process seems well examined regarding individual member issue and our organization emphasis on storytelling. As we say regarding our own group, Mountain Area Storytellers, BE RESPECTFUL, NO FUSSIN’, NO CUSSIN’, NO POLITICKIN’.

    Again. Your explanation was excellent. I hope others belonging to NSN feel the same way.

    Looking forward to helping with NSN conference in Georgia in 2020.

    Kanute Rarey

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