Listening: For Simple and Complex Reasons
A friend of mine recently asked why I push for people to listen to each other in this divisive political climate. The reason is both simple and complex. It’s simple because listening to each other is the right thing to do. Not listening only fosters more divisiveness, more confusion, and more anger. If you don’t believe me, I have to ask, “How does not listening work out for you and your family?”
The complicated reason for listening to each other points to the intricacies of our society. We are not a homogenous people. Look around these United States and consider how it is made up of multiple cultures. We instantly get a mental picture of the voting habits of the “South” or the “Northwest” or the “Plains” states or the “Rocky Mountain” states or the “Midwest” or the “Northeast” or the “Southwest.”
If you consider the individual states within each of these areas, you can see even more refinement of values and priorities and concerns. Looking even closer, how much variety of perspectives exists in your neighborhood? Because of this our nation continually endures a push-and-pull in our politics. Such conflict is natural, even needed, so all are served well on a federal governance level.
The Reason for Listening
Realizing the differences and diversity of our nation brings us to the next step for the encouragement of a healthy debate—a willingness to listen to each other. Epictetus, the Greek Philosopher born in the year 50 AD, once said, “We have two ears and one mouth that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Epictetus was admonishing people to speak less and listen more. However, less speech is not the goal here. I must admit, though, that less shouting and ranting and anger would be nice. More listening to each other is still the call for today.
But Why? We know our perspective—our truth—is the correct one, right? There’s an old adage that says that if someone doesn’t agree with you, they’re either ignorant, stupid, or insane. Well, there might also be another option. It could be we, too, live in a bit of a bubble; and we may not have all the answers or even fully understand the question. So, we need to listen.
Listening is Critical for Democracy to Work
I was pleased to read the recent article in the December 11th issue of Time magazine, “How we deserted common ground” by Nancy Gibbs. As Managing Editor of Time Magazine, Ms. Gibbs had a keen inside look at the field of journalism and what civil discourse means for our nation. In the article she said:
If we don’t show how democracy can work, does work, if we don’t model what civil discourse looks and sounds like and the progress it can yield, then we can hardly be surprised if people don’t think they really matter.
Her concern for civil discourse within the confines of journalism should also be met and shared by the rest of us. Otherwise, do we really matter? Do our opinions? How else can we, ourselves, be heard?
Listening is Required for Equal Voice Voting
Which brings me back to my main focus: Equal Voice Voting.
Equal Voice Voting requires that all of us—yes, all of us—allow for everyone’s vote to count. That means everyone must be heard when they go to the voting booth to cast a ballot for the next president. And it means the rest of us must acknowledge (hear) their voting voice.
For example, my home state of Oregon has seven electoral votes. In recent elections, had Equal Voice Voting been used, the Republican candidate would have captured three electoral votes and the Democrat would have had four.
Spread across the country, Equal Voice Voting would deliver on the promise that:
- Every vote counts!
- Every state matters!
Share the notion with others that listening matters. Tell your friends and relatives and neighbors that doing so helps all of us. Political divides may fuel debates but the good ideas make a difference when everyone listens.
Then tell your legislators you want them to listen, too.