Listening from the Middle

 While it may be difficult to change the world,
it is always possible to change
the way we look at it.
                                     ~ Matthieu Ricard

What does the left and right of politics have to do with The Red Kimono? It’s just one more area where we judge each other. Where our lack of communication damages us and our country. Where we hold prejudices no different from those prejudices based on color, religion or sexual orientation.

Most of our nerves are a bit raw and frazzled following the election, whether “our” person won or not. Anyone who knows me know that “my” candidate did not win. But, following a few hours of disappointment (how could I not be — the media portrays it like the Super Bowl), I decided to move on, let go and wish our President the best. And I mean that. No, I don’t agree with many of his policies, but I want President Obama to be a successful president — for himself and our country.

Though I’ve felt at peace about it, recently something happened that got my blood boiling again. I was “shut down” for my opinions. It’s happened to me many times before, and because I will do anything to avoid conflict, I usually grit my teeth and get past it. But this last time it happened, after I sat for awhile and listened to the “other side” express their opinions about “my side,” I had to stand up and express my own opinion.

As soon as I did, I was “shut down,” when one person in the conversation stated, “Okay, time to stop talking politics.”

Huh? All I did was express my opinion, and because it was opposed to the other opinions expressed, it was time to stop talking about it? At that point, for some reason, I realized how often this has happened to me.

And no, I don’t claim that it only happens to “my side.” I know it happens on both sides. So my point in writing this post is to say, it has to stop.

I have no problem at all if someone’s opinions–about anything–differ from mine. In fact, I enjoy a debate about it. I often learn something new. What I don’t like is when someone thinks that because I think differently, I don’t have a right to speak about it, or I’m stupid or “less evolved” for thinking the way I do. We can learn something from our differences.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about our government is that the two parties can’t work together and therefore nothing is getting done. Meanwhile, we’re about to fall over a fiscal cliff. It’s no wonder. Congress represents us, and yet we can’t communicate respectfully. Why should they? In my humble opinion, we can hardly demand they do so if we don’t.

There’s no denying that in the boxing ring of politics, there’s a Left and there’s a Right. I won’t say my views fall in the middle of the above diagram, but I certainly hope I can listen from the middle. The only way we’ll solve any of our problems is to come out of our safe, comfortable corners and listen to each other instead of throwing punches.

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29 Responses to Listening from the Middle

  1. gpolitical says:

    The body politic has eroded and the intersection of the parties is significantly smaller. I listen, I read I have passion, I am a progressive minded person, but i attempt to be objective..One primary reason political discussions devolve to finger pointing is usually because people are grossly uninformed. It should trouble everyone that Romney LOST 93% of the Black vote ,71% of the Hispanic vote and 72% of the Asian vote. Shouldn’t the question of the day/month/year, by Conservatives, be why the disparaging numbers and/or why does their message not resonate with a larger demographic? The demographics of the electoral map are proof positive that we are in the midst of a fast-changing, truly multicultural nation. Minorities are underrepresented in the GOP-House of Reps(9 Hispanics, 0 Asians, 1 Black), contributing to the angst between the parties. One way to expand the union and thus the discussion is to have more representation so that diverse voices are represented on both sides.

    With respect, given that POTUS Obama is the first non-white President, there is a large influential segment of our society that can not embrace the fact when our President is successful America is successful, regardless of his/her party affiliation,gender or ethnic background.


  2. Jan Morrill says:

    I always appreciate your comments, GPolitical. I agree with much of what you said, particularly that because the demographics of our country are changing, so should our representation. I’d be curious to know why there is not better representation. Is it because the candidates don’t run, or because they are not elected?

    I’m sure there are many reasons why Romney lost so much of the “ethnic” vote and it is certainly something that should be studied. Anything I offer would only be my opinion, as I haven’t researched it.

    Regarding your thoughts on a “large, influential segment of our society” not accepting the success of our first non-white President, the optimistic side of me hopes you’re wrong. I hope as a society we’re smarter than that. But only time will tell.

  3. gpolitical says:

    I hope I’m wrong regrading the success of the President, but I’m quickly losing optimism. I don’t know the answer as to why one party has better representation than the other.. I do think that if representation was more equal across parties(gender, ethnic, religion) it would improve dialog and grow the union.

  4. Linda Apple says:

    Listening from the middle. I LIKE THAT. This is a time when Purple Prose is good. 🙂

  5. I agree with everything you just said, Jan.

  6. Linda Austin says:

    I’m just tired of the hate. For some reason my Dem friends are more filled with hate than my GOP friends. Spewing hate is not a way to make people want to be friends with you OR vote like you. Not to mention how it damages your soul. These days it seems both parties have gotten a bit too extreme.

    • gpolitical says:

      “For some reason my Dem friends are more filled with hate than my GOP friends” … this is the problem..finger pointing… DEM say its the GOP.. GOP says its the DEM. I could argue one side, but that’s the issue..

    • Jan Morrill says:

      I’m tired of the hatefulness, too, Linda. I don’t know why it’s so hard for so many to accept that we don’t all have to think the same.

  7. gpolitical says:

    Isn’t it dissonant to argue for constitutional rights then not show some acquiescence in a democratically run election?. Its my contention that the community must control the politics of its representatives not allow the representatives to control the politics of the community.

  8. gpolitical says:

    Why isn’t it accepted that individuals(i.e informed, misinfomred, uninformed) cast votes with the presumption and/or belief the person they vote for will execute their constitutional duties to govern for the greater good? Do we believe in democracy or not? In this election, POTUS was re-elected by a 3million vote margin(51% the popular vote).. Are you suggesting that individual votes for POTUS were only garnered because of a “committee” recommendation?

  9. gpolitical says:

    . Okay here we go.. Claims of anger on my part when I simply asked questions. Voting and discussions are two different things aren’t they? Voting is done individually and discussions should involve at least 2 people but I’ve seen people talking to themselves on occasion. There is no anger or defensiveness nor did I express vitriol. Exactly what portion of my comment(s) was interpreted as angry? . How is this question angry???? “Why isn’t it accepted that individuals(i.e informed, misinfomred, uninformed) cast votes with the presumption and/or belief the person they vote for will execute their constitutional duties to govern for the greater good?”

  10. gpolitical says:

    I’m really interested in answers to the questions I posed., if anyone’s interested in discussing them. I’m sure most of our political views differ. I’ll go away, but its unfortunate if my post are interpreted as angry or defensive.

  11. gpolitical says:

    One more thing.. I still believe in the fundamental premise of American that most voters vote for the person they believe will represent their interests and best execute their constitutional duty to govern for the benefit of the greater good. I believe the results of this election for POTUS, Senate, and House of Reps. is proof of that.

  12. Jan Morrill says:

    Okay, @gpolitical. I apologize. I have a bad habit of interpreting anger, especially in written discourse, when I can’t hear voice inflections, see expressions, etc. If you weren’t angry, I’m sorry. Don’t be upset with a misinterpretation. And yes, in your most recent response, I do detect your being upset, referenced by “Okay, here we go,” and the quadruple question marks. I mean no disrespect, I am not angry. I simply made an inference, and it was wrong. But, this proves my point of the challenge and difficulty many of us have in communicating these days. Peace.

  13. gpolitical says:

    You keep insisting on my anger but do you care to offer any answers to the questions I raised?. Dialog requires questions and discussion… Pardon the ???..Its bad habit not an angry habit..

  14. Hi Jan! I’m a new Twitter follower. I’m also hoping to bump into you next week in Branson at the OWL meeting lol…so, I’m going to tread carefully :0)

    I wanted to join in though. (hold onto your hats!)

    Let me give you a wee bit of background before I offer some thoughts. I’m from Scotland. I’m married to an American. I’m not yet allowed to vote because I have not yet become an American citizen. WIth that in mind…

    I fall squarely on the left side of the aisle. I come from a country that has universal healthcare and am baffled by the fact that the US does not. Obamacare may not provide all the answers but it helped more than it hurt. A step in the right direction. The argument against seems to stem from the idea that a) Government shouldn’t control healthcare and b) it’s too expensive. The first confuses me because you pay for your Government, you control the people in power. You have the last say with your vote. Right now…Insurers and healthcare providers don’t care what you think. Not really. And the expense, well yes it will be but no-one bats an eye at the military expenditure. It’s viewed as a necessarily evil to protect the country so everyone shrugs and says fair enough.

    I bring up this point just to show one argument that has put me at odds with several people. I like a heated discussion or debate but invariably I’m told, in one form or another, that if I liked it so much I should just go back to my own country.

    The problem with any sort of political discourse is it boils down to personal opinion and not always opinion that is backed by facts. Some people can’t argue the facts because they don’t care or choose not to be bothered. People sometimes vote because that’s the way their family votes and always have. Some people pick a single issue (abortion and guns are good examples) and then side with the party that serves their beliefs. It’s hard to argue the wide range of political topics with someone who doesn’t care about the bigger picture and therefore gets defensive. I do it too sometimes. I like to think I can remain clear and concise in my arguments but occasionally I’ll feel that I’m being ridiculed for my position or simply insulted.

    When you can argue wider topics, then its a question of which set of facts you want to believe. The media is horribly biased and the internet is full of misinformation so sometimes you’re arguing things that have been filtered through the machine and its hard to know what is right and what is not.

    I disagreed with one point you made Jan and that was about how can we expect our politicans to behave when we don’t. I think it works in the other direction. Leaders lead. If you have someone in a position of power ranting and raving, playing dirty, being argumentative or unbending in their rhetoric, then the people respond to that. That’s why politics is boiled down to sound bites. They are selling you detergent. WE have to see beyond the pretty packaging and ask MORE of them. Demand it. If they won’t listen to one another…why should we?

    Anyway, that’s my dime’s worth. I have enjoyed reading your blog articles and this one was no different. Thank you :0)

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Nice to “meet” you, Gareth (Gus?). I look forward to meeting you in person next week. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and appreciate that you see that the primary focus of this post was certainly not to try to convince anyone to “come over to my side,” but to express my concern that we don’t seem to be able to communicate about our differences. I completely agree with what you said: “The problem with any sort of political discourse is it boils down to personal opinion and not always opinion that is backed by facts.”

      I also see your point about expect our leaders to lead. I even thought about that as I wrote that we shouldn’t expect more from our leaders than we do of ourselves. Good point. Still, on a personal level, I don’t think we should expect something of someone we can’t do ourselves. Respectful discourse has to begin somewhere.

      Thanks again!

    • gpolitical says:

      Very good points . The health care becdebate was in fact a shameful paritisan debate. A healthy public is certainly a prequisite for a strong economy, less one belives that a healthy labor market can be imported when needed rahter than self sustained…There is this notion that has permeated the American political landscape that anything that the government “mandates” is inherently bad, regardless of the benefit but particularity if government action benefits the poor or dis-enfranchised. Healthcare, FDR’s New Deal ; are prime examples where the overwhelming benefit is to poor and dis-enfranchised groups. This idelogy, of All Gov is Bad Gov. stems from the desire of free market capitalist to go unfettered by government regulations on a whole host of things,( envrionment, labor laws, minimum wage, etc).

  15. Jack LaBloom says:

    I would like to address the fiscal cliff. It is really more akin to going down a flight of stairs than falling off a cliff. The cuts don’t all happen at once. If nothing is done by December 31st, Congress can make tax cuts retroactive. Defense cuts can be scaled back, etc., if congress later acts to do so. The term Fiscal Cliff should be changed to Fiscal Slope.

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thanks, Jack LaBloom. I’ll admit to not knowing a lot of detail on the fiscal cliff. That’s one good example of my expressing an opinion without all the facts. I feel better now, though still concerned we’ll get to a point where we can never crawl back up that slope again.


  17. nancyhartney says:

    The salient issue in my opinion is first, respectful dialogue among the disagreeing parties. Second, an honest desire to solve problems in the interest of the greater population.

  18. gpolitical says:

    In late February 2012, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, was the first person to use the term “fiscal cliff” and that term has been grossly over used. There is no such thing as a fiscal cliff, that term is a fabricated musing from a politician… Governing from fear leads to exclusionary, inactive, irrational and partisan government….What we have now. ….Fear is only as deep as the mind allows, and it is “educated” in to us. but it can also be “educated” out of us….Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.

    Learning from someone that holds a different opinion requires that a person be willing to question their own opinion. As well, learning what we don’t know requires that we question what we do know.

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