1. Introduce setting and characters and their relationships.
You: a dorky, charming boy. Interested in technology and science.
Me: the protagonist. The highly visible, and yet sometimes still in the closet, activist.
We find each other. We connect. Two microphones plugged into a home karaoke system. We sing 90s pop songs into each other’s ears for what seems like decades.
2. Introduce conflict into your narrative.
Months later, our differences come out.
You don’t like desserts. I basically only eat desserts.
I am a morning person. You thrive at night.
I see the world through the lens of politics. You analyze the world through the scientific method.
But for dinner, we can agree on a Thai restaurant. One of us (me) begins a casual dinner conversation on the subject of ICE raids and unjust detentions and deportations.
And you ask, “But isn’t ICE just deporting people that shouldn’t be here?”
I fumble, trying to walk you through the labyrinth of immigration law, economics, and foreign policy with a side of pad thai. They do not go well together.
3. Heighten the drama with pauses and varying the cadences of your speech.
My thoughts are tossed and mixed and fried – a generous dollop of loneliness, a steamy helping of nausea.
Either I could tell you that I am one of those “people that shouldn’t be here.” I could tell you that I came here as a child, found out when I was sixteen, and didn’t stop blaming my parents until I learned better. I could tell you how I struggled to pay for college on my own; how I was rejected from scholarships and cried silently into my sleeves on BART to avoid disturbing passengers on my way home. I could tell you how I joined the movement; how I advocated for the DREAM Act with hundreds of people even when comprehensive immigration reform was a third rail issue. I could tell you how I feel trapped every day, unable to imagine a bright future for myself even with a degree; how I will always feel like a “foreigner” if I stay or if I leave.
I could tell you. I might be able to change your mind. But I could tell you and fail to win you over, too.
4. Add humor to relieve the tension.
I could make a grand exit: “‘People that shouldn’t be here’? You mean people like me? Fine, you can eat dinner alone!”
I could walk out with my head held high, fist in the air, imagining people applauding and giving me high-fives on my way to the door.
But who would pay for dinner? And who would drive me home? I could hang out in parking lot with my pride and my values keeping me company.
If I walked out on you, who else am I giving up on?
5. Communicate the purpose with your audience.
Of course I’m down for the cause.
I’ve had my share of anger and oppression and struggle.
I’ve also lobbied and rallied and protested the shit out of everything.
What would you do?
Every day we have a choice:
We can fortify ourselves in our comfort zone in communities of people that think like us.
Or we can choose to have conversations with everyone else – people who would otherwise not understand who we are and what we value. But if this is truly a movement to bring justice into our society, then shouldn’t we be including as many people as possible?
This is our challenge and our responsibility: discovering where our values meet even when we don’t expect them to; finding points of connection even when our opinions are polarized.
6. Conclude your story.
I don’t walk out in protest.
Instead, we finish our dinner. I reach across the table and say, “Let’s talk. Tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine.”