Opinion: Have fun with strangers. Democracy and our mental health may depend on it.

In recent years, I have lost my fear of “Others”.

This came about as she found new hobbies such as skating and dancing, as well as making friends with a wider and more diverse range of people. In some cases, I was associated with people whose political views were very different from my own.

The disunity I felt during the Trump administration and in the midst of the pandemic has largely subsided, replaced by hope and faith in my community and a greater sense of well-being.

Stipple style portrait illustration of Jean Guerrero

Opinion Explorer

Jean Guerrero

Jean Guerrero is the author of the latest book, The Hate Raider: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.

Will we all benefit from expanding our social circles? Mental health crisis in America inseparable decreased sense of belonging to the community. When screen time steals almost every hour our dreams and nourishes our mutual resentment, we are more lonely and insane never.

Our sanity and even our democracymay depend on our willingness to rise up against the dominance of technology, using social media to break out of it. What better time than summer to play outside and make friends with strangers?

This may seem difficult in Los Angeles, where people are cut off from traffic and proliferate. But in the years since the pandemic, many groups of people from the Westside to the Eastside are inspiring people across Southern California to come together and have fun. Using Instagram, Heylo and other apps, these groups are the antidote to the loneliness epidemic and trend without participationwhich has been performed in clubs and other community groups for decades.

For example, Los Angeles Skate Hunnies This curly group run by women. They put on free skate shows in various locations with colorful and often girly themes and portable speakers that play music. I met them through longboarding group whom I met through Instagram.

The young figure skater is dancing.

A young figure skater dances during the costume contest at the end of the Throwback Thursday event in Culver City on July 6.

(Contributed by David Tuman

Jen Yonda, a 25-year-old of Italian, Irish and German descent, created the Los Angeles Skate Hunnies in July 2020 to bring people together safely after the pandemic quarantine. She worked as a therapist and knew that social support systems were critical. “The connections people make through regular gatherings and safe public spaces are so important that sometimes they have a bigger impact than antidepressants or therapy sessions,” she told me.

His group organizes trips to the cinema, meditation and other activities. Among those who joined is my friend Lon Criswell, a 48 year old black male and systems engineer whom I met through the Skate Hunnies. “I have a whole circle of friends that I didn’t even know existed,” he told me. Until I found the group, I rode alone. “I was one of those people who skated on the sidewalk alone because I could never find anyone to skate with and who had my schedule,” he explains. “Everyone is very busy in LA.”

Before the Skate Hunnies, he had a hard time talking to people. “I come from the area, so you can’t be soft, you can’t cry,” he said. Skate Hunnies have changed you. “I come into contact with a lot of emotions,” she said. “It really opened me up because I never saw myself getting emotional or hugging other men.”

Bands like Skate Hunnies opened up to me too. inspired organize your own skate-outs. This is how I met Bradley Russo, 32, a white man and recruiter who voted for Trump in 2016 and is now politically independent. Since we had been skating for many months, I suspected that he was leaning towards conservative politics, but until this column we had never talked about politics. “I’m glad we have differences and I think that’s what makes this world great,” he wrote to me.

The participant dances at the competition.
A contestant dances at the Throwback Thursday costume contest in Culver City on July 6.

(Contributed by David Tuman

Community meetings have taught me to let go of tests of “purity” in friendship and to let go of my own prejudices. As another skater friend of mine, Denesia Jones, a 46-year-old black woman and career coach, remarked about new hobbies: “You will make mistakes and you will be able to say:“ Wow, I’m actually human. ” .’

In the last few weeks, I’ve started to explore different dance styles: bachata, salsa, zouk, and contact improvisation. These dances involve sensual contact between women and men outside of any sexual context and have helped me overcome emotional trauma and feel more confident in relationships with men.

For the first time I experienced such a respectful dance with a partner in Enthusiastic dance in Los Angeles., which organizes drug-free dances in various locations. They welcome people of all ages and backgrounds, from babies to grandparents. They start with a circle of meditation, reminding people to dance however they want, only asking them to respect each other’s boundaries.

“This is the place to pause the megaphone that tells you, ‘You’re not safe, you can’t trust people,’” Kenneth L. Ferguson, 39, a black co-founder of Athasia, told me.

People find commonality in all kinds of gatherings. IN Boyle Heights Bridge Runners, people of all ages and levels – mostly Hispanics – can exercise and socialize in a city that lacks green space. “If you run or walk half the bridge, no one will judge you,” Rolando Cruz, a 40-year-old Mexican-American, told me.

Other groups are taught to listen and communicate better. My Italian-American friend Laura Paragano, 32, whom I met through a group longboarding, found fun, understanding and belonging in an improv comedy that began last summer. “When I was growing up, it seemed to me that I couldn’t be big, sociable, dramatic and take up a lot of space,” she told me. “I’ve found that improvisation is the ideal practice for doing exactly this kind of thing.”

We can all benefit from these lessons. It’s time to stop making our worlds so small. A good starting point is to learn new things, get out into the community, and experience some joy with other people who might surprise you.


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