There is a certain sadness that has settled over me this Sunday night. It has been building for a long time and has hit what I hope will be its peak. Allow me to explain.
It is not about the NFL and its players, although there is a lot to consider there. It is not about Donald Trump and his Tweets, and there is a whole lot to say about that as well.
My comments tonight are aimed at all of us. I want everyone reading this to stop and think about what I’ve asked you to consider.
Whether it is Charlottesville, ESPN journalist Jemel Hill, NFL player protests or the president and his comments, we have had more than our share of friction points to discuss lately. And we Americans are commenting on all this.
I posted some news items on Facebook about the NFL player protests today. The comment threads, some going very long, illustrate to me the deep divide we have. It’s not just a national issue, it’s a divide I can see among many of my Facebook friends.
Then I watched the Frank Luntz focus group in Western Michigan on 60 Minutes, moderated by Oprah Winfrey. The group was formulated to spark discussion among Trump supporters and those not supportive of the president. The scariest part of that story was when one participant said we, as a nation, are headed for civil war. Almost all the people in the group nodded their heads in agreement.
As an old guy of age 66, I lived through the 1960s. If there has been any possibility of a second civil war in America, that’s when it would have happened. I do not believe we are headed to another American civil war, but if things continue to get worse, it’s not out of the question.
So, what do we do now? I have an idea. It’s not terribly innovative, but if enough of us try, maybe we can start something.
It comes down to one key word – listen. That’s right, one simple word.
We need to understand what listening genuinely means. It means you seriously consider arguments made, where you very much disagree, and think about those arguments. I propose that you listen not just to formulate a counter argument with which you agree, but try to understand the argument where you disagree.
Listening in this context includes reading, especially on social media. Try to be honest with yourself. When was the last time you listened to, or read, an argument you oppose and didn’t look at it through your own political prism?
Considering another’s views without an instant, knee-jerk reaction isn’t easy. I can be as guilty of that as anyone. But today I made an effort not to comment on all the Facebook replies and just consider each one and think about each one.
We all are products of our upbringing and experience in life, and that is what mostly forms our social and political view. What I am asking you to do is to consider the arguments of someone with a much different upbringing and life experience than yours. In other words, learn from others. It may not change your outlook, but it can help you understand those different from yourself.
This trend of personally demonizing people which whom you disagree politically is very, very dangerous. Always respect others, even when you strongly oppose their views.
There was a hopeful sign in that 60 Minutes focus group story. Oprah Winfrey added that the group went out to dinner and continued the discussion. Many in the group followed up with personal meetups and social media exchanges, trying to get to know each other better and learn from each other.
I may be sad tonight, but I am hopeful. That hope comes from the chance, even a small chance, that a few of you reading this blog post will make an effort to listen and learn from others – especially those holding views counter to yours. If we can stop demonizing the other side, we may all have more in common than we thought before beginning our listening exercise.
All I ask is that you think about what I have written here. I will work to do my part. The next step is up to you.