A Facebook friend recently posted this on her timeline:
Why did African American Dems refuse to stand when our President announced the lowest unemployment rate for AAmericans in history?
I said, “Ask them.”
One of her friends asked, “What are they saying?”
I mentioned the ever present wage gap, the ever present unemployment disparity between blacks and whites, and a few other staples of the racial inequity conversation.
My friend asked “Cite your sources please.”
So I shared a link from my blog that lists all the disparity with references.
My friend said, “this has nothing to do with what we’re talking about.”
I repeated my “ask them” statement, a little more snarkily. My friend responded with something akin to “I already know the answer.”
Boom – you couldn’t articulate American politics more clearly.
The conversation devolved into this:
“Mark Landry You’re like a spoiled child who can’t get his way and has to be sent to his room because he won’t listen to reason.”
My friend is angry, and feels like all of the disrespect people have for Trump is hurting our country.
She’s not interested in my side of the issue. I could say “listen to them” till I’m blue in the face. I could heap upon her reams of evidence all but proving how bad racial injustice is in our country. But she’s made up her mind – somehow she knows what these black Democrat non-Trump supporters are thinking without talking to any of them.
It’s like magic.
In the US, we’ve never been good at listening to each other’s political views, but it’s off the hook now. Trump supporters think liberals are trying to destroy the country, but have never sat down with a liberal to hear their side of the story. “I don’t need to, Fox news told me everything I need to know.” Liberals do the same – conservatives are under educated, gun-toting hillbillies who don’t care about anything beyond themselves.
The media outlets aren’t helping. Trump can’t do anything right on CNN, he can do no wrong on Fox. There’s nothing “fake” here, only “spun” news, carefully curated by folk who stand to lose a. lot. of money if they don’t tell their congregation what they want to hear.
But in this conversation with my Facebook friend, I finally realized that I’m not listening either. No need. I already know what she’s thinking.
It’s like magic.
A few weeks ago I was on vacation outside the US with a friend of mine who’s a Trump supporter. We were staying in a hostel and quickly made friends with a few Europeans. At dinner one night, a girl from Lithuania asked,”How in the world did you elect someone like Trump?” Embarrassed for my country, and for myself, I made it patently clear that I had nothing to do with it.
I had been digging at my friend about Trump all week, and it was getting to him, so he finally chimed in. We had been getting up every morning at 5:00 AM for surfing so we were super tired, and maybe a bit under the influence, so the conversation got heated. At one point he said, “You’re not listening.” I said, “I don’t need to. You don’t like Hilary, and you think Trump is good for the economy. I know exactly what you’re thinking,” then kept on with my tirade until he gave up.
It would have been better for both of us if would have stopped, said “You’re right, I’m not listening, sorry man,” and given him a chance to share his thoughts. Lithuania girl would have ripped him a new one, but at least he would have felt listened to.
One of the biggest insults we can hurl at each other is not “you’re an idiot” or, “you just want to destroy our country.” When we refuse to listen, we really piss each other off.
We stand to lose nothing – whatsoever – by listening. I can guarantee you that you’ll never get me to see eye-to-eye with a Trump supporter, but I can gain a bigger understanding of where someone’s coming from, and if nothing else, let them know that they matter – their opinion matters.
Listening to each other is the best way to move forward, and vice versa.
In addition to all of this, I’m a Christian. I’m conservative in some areas, liberal in others, but I’m charged with taking up for the poor and marginalized, AND doing everything in my power to be at peace with people. I’m finding that’s a hard row to hoe, but that’s Jesus in a nutshell. I think I could sum up all of His commandments with “Go, do some really hard shit.”
So I’ve decided to be more respectful as I navigate this uncharted-for-me political era. Refusing to give someone a voice is one of the most unproductive things I can think of.
As much as I hate it, I’m going to have to listen. Ironically, if I do, I’ll be listened to more than if I continue to try and change people’s minds, or talk to them like I’d talk to Hitler.
To my Facebook friend I posted:
I’m realizing that I haven’t listened to or considered your perspective. I’m sorry about that. Let me know if you’d like to get coffee sometime. I’ll do a better job.
It was hardest thing I’ve written in a long time.
Her tone immediately changed, and she agreed to get coffee soon. If we do get together, I’ll listen, ask questions, repeat her perspectives back to her so she knows that she’s been heard, and that she matters. I might ask for her to extend the same courtesy to me, but we’ll see.
She might not be ready to listen. Not everybody is, including me, apparently. But she’ll be a ton closer if I can muster the trust in Jesus that I’m always blabbering about, and listen to her first.