You may be right. (And, no, I’m not quoting Billy Joel.) Here’s your moment to feel justified. You’re right. There, you heard it, satisfied? It seems that’s all anyone wants to hear anymore. Watching the news doesn’t sound any different than listening to my kids fight over toys. I find myself saying to the tv the same declarations to them.
“Neither of you are right if you’re screaming!”
“Words not hands, please.”
“Your body, your choice… Not in front of others.”
“Listening not screaming.”
“Please put that down, mama can’t fix it!”
We agree with like-minded individuals on social media and align our lives with others that share our views. Logically, why wouldn’t we when the issues that are being fought over are not the theoretical ones of the past that could be held at an impersonal distance. In the past we could expect bipartisan partnership, open debate, and an implied sense of safety in discussing contentious topics. Now a difference of opinion can lead to a violent protest at the worst or a loss of friendship at the least. It’s not that it wasn’t possible in the past but we haven’t seen open hostility and division like this since the Civil Rights era of politics and how ironic is it that since we’re right back to where we left off in those discussions. The struggle didn’t end, the conversation paused, and for those that suffered during that silence there’s an equal amount of people who seemingly feel justified in their privilege because of that silence.
We’re divided over who deserves the right to be a citizen and splitting up families. We’ve stripped rights from veterans to justify gender discrimination. We’re debating the interpretation of the Constitution and whether or not we should have guns. We’re receiving our presidential addresses from Twitter and hoping the next one isn’t to announce a nuclear exchange with North Korea.
Is there a middle ground?
Is it possible to listen to the opposing view any longer?
If someone feels that you intrinsically don’t deserve rights equal to theirs, where’s the starting point for healthy debate?
How do you find compromise between two extremes?
As Jerry Seinfeld said, “Here’s something you don’t hear on the Internet, “Oh yeah, you’re right.”” The likelihood of changing someone’s mind over current topics is up there with forcing another eclipse. Is it possible though? (The eclipse that is, a friend is asking since she missed it, like most things, because of her kids.)
Nora was eavesdropping on me watching the news. She heard me exclaim, “Finally!”
“Finally what, mama?”
I cringed in embarrassment. I wasn’t sure why I felt embarrassed. Was it because I was caught out watching the news on my phone or that I was talking to myself?
“They finally took down a statue that was a reminder of the Civil War.”
“What was that?”
“Our country was at war over slavery.”
“When people own other people.”
“You can own other people?”
“Not anymore…not legally. Some people want it to be that way again.”
“Are those people just mean?…”
You can see where the conversation was going and how much I probably squirmed because I would like to believe that no individual is “just mean”. Yet, to her credit, how can you logically explain slavery without attaching a judgement of someone’s character who supports owning others? Much like, how can you expect an open discussion between two sides of an argument over racism or sexism? If the question of whether or not a form of discrimination is justified, is there ever a compromise?
I find myself asking my kids, daily if not hourly, to listen. To me, to each other, to others. Why is that something so seemingly simple is so very difficult to maintain and achieve? An open ear, an open mind, to listen. Is the trick just shutting your mouth and listening? My guess is that most of us could benefit from focusing on kindness and listening more often than the time it takes to craft a clever tweet or troll a put down. We can’t tolerate hatred yet we can’t stamp it out with our own. If we truly want to start a dialogue, we have to focus on understanding and not winning an argument. If not for our sakes then our kids’. The stakes are too high and accepting our country’s problems instead of fixing them hasn’t benefited anyone except those profiting off of our battles. Stop, listen, make informed votes, and care more about the world than being right.
(Side note, I’m still waiting for my kids to listen.)