Happy Thursday, friends! If you didn’t get the chance to look at the photography in yesterday’s post then I’d recommend taking a look. You can scroll through 28 great images that tell a good – and important – story (see “Rejecting the False Narrative…”).
Let’s Listen, America!
Today I’m interested in talking about the quality of conversation that is surrounding this unreasonably contentious, fractious, election. My point is going to be that we must have the conversation, we must listen, and it’s okay to disagree with conviction and passion… but – and this is a huge truth – it’s entirely possible to talk to one another without anger, bitterness, condescension, and enmity.
But it’s hard work to do this right. So the question is this: Are our relationships, and is our sense of community, important enough for us to do this properly?
A Real Conversation:
So here is – hopefully – a helpful example (and, yes, I do have permission to use this dialogue); I quote: “I don’t mind you using my name in the context of wanting to create open dialogue, which I feel we have achieved and done so with respect for each other – which is what I think needs to happen in America.
Our conversation – Mark and I don’t know one-another, although I think we may possibly have met at a wedding once – started, as these things often do – as a secondary or perhaps tertiary exchange on a fairly typical politically flavored Facebook thread.
Someone had posted something they’d heard second or third hand, accusing the Democratic Party of not displaying the American flag during their convention. Another person (not Mark) piggy-backed on that by writing, “Those liberal democrats don’t care about America. They are in it for themselves.” Then there was another sweeping generalization dismissing the DNC as not supporting American values, the American Constitution or individual excellence.
At first I reacted rather than responded:
Instead of either A) leaving well enough alone, or B) explaining why I felt those positions were unreasonable, I simply lobbed two small grenades – “That’s a little silly,” and “How absurd!” – and effectively invited more grenades.
That’s when I was held to account by Mark Helveston, who wrote, “Derek Maul your debating skills are off the charts. Lol Are you sticking with two word replies to avoid rebuttal?”
I suggested that Mark might get a better feel for my point of view if he checked out my recent post, “Please consider this about Trump/Clinton.” He read what I had to say and offered the following, generous, reply:
“Nice article Derek Maul. You speak a lot about God’s love which is good, but would it not concern God if a political ideology from either side drew people away from him? Does corruption not concern God? Are we as a nation doing God’s will or have we abandon his teachings for self fulfillment? I believe God does care who we pick as a leader of our nation. I’m being sincere in my reply sir and welcome your discussion.”
I appreciated Mark’s thoughtfulness and responded with this (I’ve added the paragraph divisions and a few commas for this post):
- “Hi, Mark: I’m going to ping you back with a short reply as I have to work this morning – but I’ll probably explore your good thoughts more when I post my blog later today (I’ll just give you first name credit unless you ask for more).
- “Usually I don’t join in comment banter, but I do say something once in a while, when either A) False information is posted that could easily have been researched and dismissed B) Entire groups of people are dissed with huge generalizations. So that accounts for my initial lack of debating cred.
- “You make a good point when you say ideology is something God is likely interested in if it draws people away from God, and that corruption is also an issue for God. My interest as a writer/thinker is not in promoting one ideology over another but in challenging people to live as intentional disciples of Jesus.
- “I believe that all ideologies, and forms of government, and kingdoms, and republics, and democracies of all sorts would benefit from leaders and populations living as followers of Jesus. So I’m not interested in being against Trump… or Hillary… or the other candidates, so much as interested in challenging people to live, and act, and vote as people of faith… and that must include more civility and compassion and listening to one another. OK. Enough. Like I said I may flesh this out in my next post. Peace and blessings – DEREK.”
That’s when Mark gave me permission to quote him and use his name: “I don’t mind you using my name in the context of wanting to create open dialogue, which I feel we have achieved and done so with respect for each other – which is what I think needs to happen in America. You have also made some good points and I know that understanding takes an open mind willing to listen to both sides of an issue and finding common ground to reach the desired resolution….”
Thinking about this some more, the real common ground turns out not so much to be agreement as listening, and respectful dialogue. We don’t hash out solutions via rhetorical ascendency so much as through compromise and mutual understanding.
I sense that Mark likely has a deeper grasp of some of the flashpoint issues than I do; but reasonable people don’t have to prove points so much as listen to one another.
So let’s start a, “Let’s listen, America!” campaign. What happens next is up to all of us.
Peace, and I really mean that – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.