It’s just words. And they are ours.

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve gone back to school and I’m busy, but that’s not the only reason. I’ve grown to dislike the internet as a communication vehicle because of its distortion–like an uncleaned fishbowl that we’ve all gotten used to. I’ve encountered so many positive aspects of social media–made friends with people I might not have ever met, shared a ton of laughs, and been able to learn from a diverse range of viewpoints. I like learning. I like people.

This election is changing everything for me. Don’t give up on this post. I’m not going to talk about candidates. And please don’t comment about the candidates, or the alternative parties, or who is worse than whom. This is not what this is about. This is about us.

An intelligent, thoughtful, and what I would call moderate friend posted a comment on Facebook saying that while she personally liked a candidate for state office, she disagreed with the candidate’s vote on a particular bill that was important to her.

For this she was called a bimbo. By another woman. And that was one of the nicer comments.

I’ve gotten emails from conservative friends saying something akin to, If I’m white, I’m racist, if I believe in traditional marriage I’m homophobic, etc. And I get the same ones from liberals. If I worry about inequality I’m a socialist, or a lazy ass who just wants a handout.

That is exactly our problem.

Our candidates call each other names, and we call each other names, and it continues to perpetuate this belief that we want radically different things and only a winner-take-all approach will get us there. You have to be all in, one way or another. Either the Democrats have all the answers or the Republicans do, and there is only one right way to be and it is our way.

Everyone accuses everyone else of blindly following candidates. Of not doing their research, or being lazy, or stupid, or a whole host of other things. We are all different. We’ve had different experiences, and have different values. Not wrong values, just different. This changes how we see and evaluate issues. That is a good thing. Let’s stop assuming that other people would agree with us if only they knew what we knew. It’s flawed logic, and doesn’t give us or our friends any credit.

I have a good friend who is on a different side of the political fence than I am, and I respect her more than I can say. If she holds a different viewpoint from mine, I assume she does for very good reasons, and I’m not afraid to hear them. I’m not afraid to have her disagree with me, and we can do so without any animus whatsoever. The idea of calling her a bimbo is laughable.

Not to mention really, really unkind, and really really unproductive. Yes, they are just words, and it’s the internet, and we don’t have to see the other person, or feel their hurt and anger.

Our candidates are vicious to each other because we are. They are responding to us, and we are lapping it up.

We want a change? Be better than this. We can be.

It’s gotten to the point where disagreeing about solutions entails putting our hands over our ears and screaming “Lalalala I can’t hear you. There’s no problem here.”

Yes we have problems. We also have an enormous population of intelligent well-meaning individuals and resources and will. No one else is going to solve it for us. Yes, these problems are hard and complicated. They say wisdom is being able to hold two different points of view in your head and believe them both to be true.

I think that’s why our problems are so hard to solve. They are the living, breathing paradox of who we are.

Leadership can come from the top. It’s clear that our leadership on both sides is failing us, but it won’t change until we do.

A wise mentor once told me that I could be tough on issues without being tough on people. It’s a lesson I struggle with every single day. I am not always a good listener. I can be arrogant and opinionated. I am a work in progress and I am trying.

Let’s make an agreement today.

No more name calling. No more personal attacks. If you disagree, ask questions. “What makes you feel that way? And listen to the answer. Really listen. You may learn something. It may  change how you feel. It may not. But it’s becoming so nasty that many of us just don’t want to talk anymore. And I find that really depressing. I like to talk. Probably too much.

So let’s stop ascribing motive to others. Let’s talk about what we want the world to be, and how we can make our little corner of it a little kinder, more giving, more accepting, and leave everyplace we go a little better than it was before we came.

Naive? Yup. It’s also the only thing that gets me out the door each day.

It may be just words, but there are a lot of them out there. I know. I’m a writer. Choose them wisely.

10 comments on “It’s just words. And they are ours.

  1. whimsygizmo says:

    Oh, Jeannine. So much YES to this. Amen. AMEN. Thank you.

  2. aviets says:

    Excellent thoughts. It’s good to see you back.

    I’m on a team at my church that is implementing a process by which our congregation will be intentionally welcoming and affirming of the LGBTQ community. A major part of the process is to have as many one-on-one visits as possible with members. In those conversations our goal is to LISTEN more than 70% of the time, and ask questions like “Can you tell me more about that?” I’m convinced that this strategy would be extremely useful in many other situations, as well.

  3. boltoncarley says:

    Have I mentioned I adore you? I keep my political thoughts to myself, and they will stay that way for the most part. And I’m all for putting good into the world. I hope you decide to come hang with me next month as I do the Blessed Turkey Project. It’ll make you feel good. It does me. The back of the class is a pretty great place to be if we stick together. 🙂

  4. Thank you! So true and I’m glad someone spoke up. 💜

  5. Gail Kushner says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing . . . . and I would like coffee and cookies. K?

  6. Thank you, Jeannine. I can always count on you … I have yet to make it over that huge boulder of silence that has settled so firmly on my shoulders, across my mouth … And yet you are right. Why I do what I do – it is to make [my little corner of] the world a little kinder, a little more beautiful. To hold the paradox in each hand, the both-and. To bless our wounds and one another. How in the world can we survive without working together sharing our gifts, our viewpoints – knowing that the tougher ones to hear are where the gold lies in the end? Thank you, friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Perhaps now I, too, can get back to writing.

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