Listen up, ND
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, August 24, 2017
Today, our school and our nation find themselves stuck in a paradox: everyone wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen. Over the past few weeks I’ve been disgusted and disappointed by some of the comments and posts I’ve read on our various Facebook groups. One need not look any further than this past week on Valentine’s Day when civil discourse turned quickly to personal jest and unwarranted attacks from both sides. The political and social sphere is tense in our country right now, there is no doubt about it. Strong opinions demand not only to be heard, but also to be correct. What happens, though, when we are set in our “ideas of right” and refuse to open ourselves to the opinions of others? We close our minds and ears and jump to demean; we’d sooner believe that what they say must be wrong than re-examine our own previously held conceptions Every time we act in such a manner, we fail ourselves and our causes.
No argument has ever been won by personally attacking the mindsets of one side or another. No point has ever been made by ad nauseum repetition in the face of opposition. At the end of a shouting match, when the smoke has cleared, there is no victorious side; only two people who are frustrated, offended and further alienated from one another. I’m sure that many of you are like me and wanted to throw their remote at the TV every time Donald Trump uttered “wrong” or Hillary swung at Donald’s character. Yet, despite mocking this behavior, we ourselves act in the same way. With every snide emoji and comment we make behind the safety wall of our computers, we take part in the same rhetoric we vehemently reject. We fail to listen and appreciate the opinions of others and become the monsters we speak against. We push people to hide their feelings and opinions out of fear of judgement. Not only is this hypocritical, it is divisive and hindersome to our shared goals.
We have a lot more in common than we think. There is no black and white, no 2+2=4. Instead, I see problems and shared desires to resolve them, with little agreement on how to do so. If we ever wish to achieve our goals, we need unity and understanding — we need sophisticated argument, civil debate, and recognition that every individual in our community carries with them a diversity of experiences and backgrounds. So, stop pointing fingers ND, and stop pushing the disillusionment that there is always a right answer. Instead, talk, research, develop ideas, speak eloquently, protest peacefully, call out injustice and most of all, listen to the struggles and stories of one another. The moment you evoke aggression or anger in your words or actions is the moment you lose your argument. Only by educating ourselves and respectfully discussing issues can we bring about the unity that our nation so desperately needs.
In the words of Desmond Tutu, “don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.