“It is only when we go outside that comfort zone, and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with, that we can make an informed judgment on any matter.” – Steve Anderson, Chief of Police, Nashville, TN
A friend of mine, knowing my generally liberal stance on most issues, tagged me in a Facebook post about Al Sharpton yesterday. The week prior, we had a discussion about Rev. Sharpton where we disagreed about his efficacy. As such, when he came across an article that articulated his point on the subject, he tagged me. This set off a lengthy and, initially, a heated conversation about police and community relations.
Right out of the gate, I was pissed, if I’m being honest. I felt attacked. How could he not see my point of view? How does what I feel not make sense to him? Chalk it up to the narrow minded conservative right, right?
At a certain point, though, we each relaxed. For whatever reason, we calmed down and stopped firing off texts without reading what the other had written. We asked questions. That bled over into today. We discussed more topics, and what we found is that we actually shared similar beliefs on a whole lot of issues. Sure, we didn’t agree 100% on everything, but it felt much easier to discuss things when there was no fear of offense.
My interest in politics and social issues may stem from getting older…I don’t know. I find myself getting more and more worked up over social and political issues than I ever have. What I’ve noticed (and it’s hardly a revelatory observation) is that we are beyond divided. We’re fractured, and this fractured division is largely due to poor communication. Mostly, it’s because of an inability or utter unwillingness to listen to an opposing viewpoint and seriously consider it. Instead, we seek out only the information that suits our agendas. We repeat blatant falsehoods that we read online and don’t bother to fact-check it. We shut off any possibilities of being exposed to differing opinions as if it is somehow going to infect us.
We are not helping to close the rift that we have created. In order to do this, we have to start listening. We have to start being open to the possibility that what we believe may or may not be actually true. We have to allow for the possibility that, though it may be painful, sometimes personal change is the only way to truly advance.
Let’s, like Chief Anderson says, “subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with” for the possibility that middle ground can be reached and progress can be made.
Listen. Read. Communicate. It’s the best possible way to start to close an ever widening gap.
Have an awesome Tuesday,
P.S. – To read an outstanding example of this, read Chief Anderson’s response to a letter he received from a concerned citizen.