‘Power of potluck’ is area multi-cultural campaign to bring diverse folks together with home-cooked food, fellowship

A recent “diversity’ potluck was hosted at the Pelican Rapids library. The multi-cultural committee and others will be meeting Jan. 11 to discuss hosting future social gatherings on a scheduled basis. The sessions will be at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 11.

By Dave Ellison
Guest contributor

“Disinformation” is an English translation of the Russian word “dezinformatsiya,” the name given by Stalin to a secret KGB propaganda department in 1923.

We call it “fake news.”

Russian intelligence has used it frequently since then as a weapon against anyone considered to be an enemy or victim.

Defectors from the 1960s to 80s revealed the extent of this activity. A fake document in 1980 claimed that the US supported apartheid in South Africa and actively discriminated against African Americans. Operation INFEKTION was a campaign to convince the world that AIDS was a US plot to destroy nonwhites. The internet and social media have allowed for an exponential increase in the volume of disinformation attacks.

In two years (2015-2017) European cyber warfare experts uncovered 3500 Russian fake news items.

The tactics have become more sophisticated and the attacks have multiplied but the underlying strategy remains the same.

To divide us. To create distrust in our institutions, our allies, our neighbors, and our government. A cyber security expert described it as “driving wedges into the cracks in our society.” Unfortunately it’s not just the Russians anymore. Political parties use fear to mobilize their base. Media outlets and talk show hosts have learned that fear and hate sell. We each live alone in our own self-selected media reality. The result is that the richest most powerful country in the history of the planet is paralyzed by partisan squabbling and distrust.

This summer a group of Pelican Rapids residents, alarmed by images of racists marching with Tiki torches, decided to act.

After meeting for several months, the group joined with the Pelican Rapids Multicultural Committee which has been running focus groups to determine if local minorities felt threatened.

It was obvious that more torches and shouting wouldn’t end well. The group alsorealized that they  couldn’t afford to buy a cable network, a legislator or even a used lobbyist and would have to make do with the tools at hand.

Warm food and hospitality, a Pelican Rapids specialty, came to mind.

One way to heal cracks in society is to build connections between individual people, to celebrate our shared values instead of dramatize our differences. Civil conversation around a table of tasty home cooked food is a great way to replace ignorance with firsthand knowledge and fear with understanding.

In early December 18, people got together for an interesting experiment.

They gathered one evening to share a meal. The food included Greek baklava, Somali sambusa, American banana cream pie, Mexican tamales, and Italian cavatini.

The discussions ranged from “getting to know you,” to housing, jobs and school.

One table learned Somali greetings; another shared recipes.

The dinner went so well that the group plans to organize potluck dinners for 6-8 people with diverse backgrounds, different perspectives, ethnicities, education, religion, or employment.

These informal get-togethers will be opportunities to discover our similarities, to appreciate our differences, build meaningful relationships, examine our biases, and eat. The diversity dinners offer us an opportunity to get to know our neighbors through intentional interaction. It’s difficult for most of us to step outside our circle of family and friends. This program provides an “excuse” and a means to meet people with different perspectives and expand our horizons. Volunteer facilitators will help organize the meals. Space at the library and grants to help with expenses will be available, if needed.

A meeting at the library for those interested in taking part will be held Jan 11, at 5:30 p.m. If you are interested but can’t attend the January meeting, or if you have any questions, contact Dave Ellison at 218-863-5904.

There are a lot of very smart, well paid people working hard on behalf of different political and economic interests to divide us, and they are succeeding. Many of our neighbors had to leave their birthplaces because efforts to divide their societies succeeded and their countries fell apart
(think Somalia, Viet Nam, Bosnia). It can happen here; some say it’s already beginning. We can stop it only if we come together as a community.

Putin underestimates the power of tuna casserole at his own risk.