It’s really hard to listen. Sure, if your best friend needs to talk about their terrible day or your partner needs to vent about their boss or their commute, you can probably handle that kind of listening. All of us need people in our lives who can hear our petty griefs and existential trials. But when it comes to people with opposite political beliefs, things get dicey.
Most of us choose to avoid talking about politics with family and even close friends. I can’t imagine talking about the education budget with my Dad, let alone listening to him tell me his views. That’s our problem as a nation right now. We are not listening.
Maybe some of us have been protesting lately. Maybe some of us have used Facebook or Twitter to lash out against what we think of as the ‘opposite’ side. We have one thing in common when we do this: we are exercising our freedom of speech. We are failing to exercise our obligation to listen.
We all have a different idea of patriotism. At a basic level, we all know patriotism to be the love of one’s country. The problem comes with our views about how that country should be run. I think the main thing we forget is that everyone’s opinion is valid. Everyone deserves to be heard. We aren’t go to get anywhere by just yelling and tweeting and marching. We all need to stop and hear each other out.
We all have the right to freedom of speech. It is an amazing and glorious right. It may be the greatest right we have (although I am willing to hear your views on our greatest right as Americans). None of us can be prosecuted for saying what we please. All of us are so entrenched in our right to speak, that we have forgotten things can only change if we also listen.
I need to work on this. I need to be better at being quiet. I need to be better at being empathic. I need to be a better patriot, and I need to do that by realizing that my views are not everyone’s. And they are changeable! I have changed my mind about the way I see things and I can and will do it again. I need to put down my phone and turn off the news and talk to my neighbors. I need to hear people’s actual struggles. I need to ask others what they think and then shut up and let them tell me. I think the most patriotic thing I can do right now is listen.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!