A nationwide breakdown in communication
*Edited to add: I usually post my columns here just as they ran in the paper. And, I have a lot of respect and appreciation for my editors. However, anyone who saw this one in print should know that I am mortified that the term "soccer moms" ran under my byline. File under: irony. See also: story for another day. Moving on ...
By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register
I have started and deleted several iterations of this column, in response to the recent election of our 45th president. However, it occurred to me — right on deadline, unfortunately — that the last thing the world needs is another person sharing an opinion.
Instead, I thought, perhaps it would be better for me to focus on what needs doing in the wake. I have some huge favors to ask of you guys, because it appears there’s an awful lot of work lying in front of us, on behalf of one another and humanity as a whole.
For the purposes of this column, I’m not interested in how you decided to vote. I’m concerned about how you’ve opted to treat people who didn’t pick the same candidate.
I’m worried about being so quick to label others one way or the other that we miss making progress on important things we need to agree on — like, say, civility.
The last time we elected a new president, my older son was an infant. He mostly just cared about being warm and fed, as sleeping was not so much his thing. Back then, I was preoccupied largely with figuring out how to meet our most basic needs.
My boys are in first and third grades now, and this time, they had some questions. Actually, they had a lot of questions. And I was not prepared for them, as it blew my mind to see how much vitriol they’d adsorbed from that being spewed about so casually by friends, family, people on the sidelines at soccer games and strangers at Safeway.
They’d already heard words I wasn’t prepared to explain. They were already confused about concepts I struggle to wrap my own mind around.
So I did what any parent would do, repeated back their questions to be clear about what they were asking, and of course, to buy myself some time to figure out how to respond appropriately.
That’s what I need to ask you guys to do, too. Please, for the love of all the children paying attention, pause before responding to things that trigger strong reactions.
What is true for you? You should totally express that, but you should do it in a way that doesn’t force children into a false dichotomy.
Could we possibly stop contributing to a culture where facts are treated as opinions and opinions are treated as facts?
You know what? Nobody gets a pass on that one. There’s no one side doing it right.
This election season has been marked by one of the biggest breakdowns in civil communication that I’ve ever experienced. If we want things to be different, we need to start seeing where people who disagree with us are coming from.
That doesn’t mean we have to be complicit with an idea we abhor. It just means we have to be willing to listen, and when we get our turn, to explain our counter position without resorting to hostility.
By all means, pay attention, form opinions, care deeply and be as vocal as you wish. I promise to support you in that, whether or not I agree with you. But my support ends when your message gets lost in the bombast of your delivery.
We can be truthful without being cruel. And if we want people to hold space for our processing of events, and the emotions attached to them, we need to return the courtesy.
In our country — and I continue to be a proud resident, despite my disbelief over some of what I am hearing and seeing — freedoms and rights come with a measure of responsibility that we are collectively slacking on. Remember, we are all responsible for the words we choose, the impressions we create and the conduct we display in engaging others — especially those we disagree with.
If you’ve known me for even 10 minutes, you know I am passionate about a lot of things and don’t hesitate to call out something that seems wrong to me. But I’ll back it up every time. And I’ll do it without making your kid worry that the people they love aren’t going to be safe around me.
You’re welcome. Thank you for doing the same.
One last thing: I have this quote from William Martin’s work, “The Parent’s Tao Te Ching,” on my desk at work and fridge at home. Maybe it will resonate with some of you, as it does with me:
“Believe this difficult truth. Showing respect in the face of disrespect, love in the face of hate, trust in the face of betrayal and serenity in the face of turmoil, will teach your children more than all the moral lectures by all the preachers since the dawn of time.”
Pssst: If you liked this column, I'd love it if you share it with someone else who might be encouraged by it too!