In a post a couple of weeks ago, I challenged my readers to just listen to someone they know they don’t agree with politically, and let me know how it goes. I tried this myself, and – somewhat to my surprise – it turned out to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable hours in my week.
I chose an intelligent, thoughtful co-worker who I knew had voted for Trump. He and I had had a few arguments during the election. I promised him that I was interested in listening, not arguing, and we sat down for lunch together.
I was surprised to learn how much we agreed on. We both support America’s traditional alliances, like NATO, but hope to withdraw from military operations in the Middle East. We are both wary of the United State being the world’s military police. We would probably disagree about the extent, but we agree that our borders must be secure and immigrants should be vetted. We both support President Trump’s plan to invest in infrastructure.
Ed thinks that most news sources are biased and unreliable. But, here was what stunned me: When he started saying, “The only news source I trust is….” I fully expected the sentence to end “Fox News.” Imagine my shock when he said instead “NPR.” NPR is my daily standard, too. It was eye-opening for me to learn that we both listen to the same news source and yet draw many different conclusions.
I heard some things that disturbed me a little, too. I detected some unconscious racism in some of the things that Ed said. I was dismayed that he feels so unsafe that he carries a concealed weapon almost everywhere he goes. I’m suspicious that school vouchers are a sneak attack on public education. And I don’t think that Trump will bring our country the safety and prosperity that Ed and I both hope for. But, I had promised to just listen and that’s what I did. I’ll be honest: It was really, really hard to keep my mouth shut. But, I still don’t trust myself to argue without getting emotional. So listening is what I can do right now. And, overall, I was encouraged.
I was encouraged because our civil, rational conversation proved that it IS still possible for two American citizens who disagree to speak to each other that way. And, folks, that is the only way we are going to get our country back. As long as we’re just screaming insults at each other, we are serving the purposes of those who would divide us.
Did you try this? If yes, let me know how it worked out for you. If no, I urge you to gather your courage and listen to someone who disagrees with you. I hope you find it as enlightening and heartening as I did.