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Don Rogers: Talking isn’t our problem

How do we talk to the other side? Well, we don’t.

We listen.

Yep, listen. The hardest thing.



We love free speech and expressing ourselves, which is great. At least I think it’s great. Even with Kathy Griffin, Colin Kaepernick and Steve Bannon. Add Roy Moore and Jimmy Kimmel if you like.

So we’re not listening, not really. We’re just waiting for our turn to talk, then speaking ever slower and ever louder as if that will make the difference.

We can talk. North Koreans don’t dare. Syrians go well beyond talking.




We even argue whether athletes should kneel during the national anthem. If this is an issue, seriously, we’re in better shape than we think.

But here I am, talking.

I’m thinking about Oprah on “60 Minutes” Sunday and an NPR show in Colorado last week in which another host gathered voters to talk.

This is all the rage now: Learning to talk to the other side. Surely this is the path to unity. I believe it, too, at least in a first steps sort of way.

It’s better, if more fraught, than talking about everything except why we voted as we did, why our feelings have only hardened since November, why “they” lost their minds going the other way.

I see plainly what’s wrong with your views, as you see where I trip.

We want to explain this to each other. If only you could understand, then you’d change. Surely then, you’d see things correctly. My way.

So we’re not listening, not really. We’re just waiting for our turn to talk, then speaking ever slower and ever louder as if that will make the difference.

Then we complain “they” aren’t listening.

But it’s us. We’re not, either. How do we expect them to listen if we don’t?

We’re probably not going deep enough, stuck as we are at the surface: “Give him a chance; the media won’t.” “What has he done? Name one thing, just one, besides adding to our divisions.” “The establishment of each party has failed the people, so we needed to take a flier, blow things up.” “Great, you certainly did. Now it’s a lot worse.” “How can you even say that?”

Progressive professor emeritus George Lakoff has some sound advice from his book “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” a classic with insights that hold 13 years after first publication.

His advice is timeless: Show respect, ask good questions, probe for values underlying some of the ridiculous things we say, libtards and right-wing wackos alike.

Beneath the BS and the trolling, as Americans we share desire for security, prosperity, opportunity, freedom. Those are ones he lists. I’m more interested in giving our children our best, good health, living up to our responsibilities as citizens, staying informed, and, well, having some fun, too.

“You win a victory when the discourse turns civil,” Lakoff writes. “They win when they get you to shout.”

Amen.

He’s got some others that only make sense: Stay calm, put a lid on your righteous outrage for a moment, maintain your good humor.

Certainly hold your ground, avoid whining or otherwise playing the victim, keep your poise.

I would add avoid biting on the rhetoric you’ll hear from frankly weaker minds. People caught up in drama like to bait. They get off on it. Be prepared, recognize when it happens, and here’s another tough part: forgive them.

They know not.

Even if they think they do.

Listen closely enough and you’ll begin to understand.

The sign of wisdom is how we use this knowledge for the betterment of us all, not just our side.

That is, let’s cast aside the partisan crap. Mostly it’s just noise anyway. Blah, blah.

Genuine governance is about solving problems, not adding to them as we do.

Meantime, Lakoff’s advice is good for conservatives as well as liberals: Show respect. Think and talk at the level of values. Say what you believe.

He also advises reframing what we hear in our terms, but I would counsel against this, at least in the context of learning to “talk” with one another about what divides us.

Much better to listen. Really listen.

There’s more than enough talk.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 477-4299.


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