Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Listening is an Active Skill

I'm not a big fan of Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, or any of these 'revolutions' that spawned in the last couple years or so. I like change. Change is good. Change doesn't come from idealists, though. It doesn't spawn from selfish motives but out of wanting better for the person sitting across the aisle. That's what these people are missing. The reason why the Civil Rights Movement worked was because people like Martin Luther King wanted mankind to benefit from desegregation...not just the African Americans.

To tell someone that they are being selfish doesn't really help much, so I decided to write in to my hometown newspaper and call from people to just listen to one another. I encourage you to do the same.

Letter to the Editor:

When I was in elementary school, we were always taught to listen. Kids would try to talk over the teacher and she would always tell us to 'listen'. After a while, we would get the message. You can't learn if you don't listen. You can't understand if you don't listen. Most of us learned this when we were young. It's one of our most fundamental life skills, and I'm really concerned that we might have lost it.

As a man in his early 20's, I'm consistently told that my opinion doesn't matter. I'm told that I "haven't lived long enough to understand." So…I listen, and all I hear is white noise. No matter where I go or what I do, I'm faced with some kind of verbal shootout that always ends in finger pointing and disappointment. 

My generation likes social discourse and our arguments are based on an emotional response to an issue. You decided to raise the cost of tuition? You better prepare yourself for resistance, even if the cost is to help improve our education. The presidential election is coming up soon? You better believe that we'll voice our support for a candidate, even if we don't know completely what he or she supports. The entire Occupy Wall Street is an example of an emotional response: we don't have jobs, so we are angry. Instead of retraining or looking elsewhere for a job, we'd rather protest. It's a young person's mistake.

But now I see this same kind of emotional discourse in the very people I'm suppose to look up to and respect, and I can't help but think we've taken a giant step back. I read the news and hear the voices telling me that I need to pick a side and start fighting. All our problems are rooted in a political arena, and it isn't just the members of congress that are fighting.

We are fighting with one another and, more importantly, we aren't listening. You want evidence? Take a look at the opinion section of the Kingman Daily Miner or listen to conversations on the street. People are fired up over issues but would rather shift blame than find solutions to our problems. These problems are big, and we can only solve them if we work together. It's hard to do that when we don't even try to listen and understand one another.

This is more than just you and me, or even America for that matter. It's a fact that every decision made (or not made) in the USA will affect the entire world, and that world is watching us. If you don't believe me, get a passport and travel for a bit. You'll see what I'm talking about. They watch us and cannot believe how petty we've become. We live in a globalized world, and Americans just can't seem to accept that. It's always about 'me' when it should be about 'us', and we will pay the price for that kind of antiquated mentality. Greed and selfishness is destroying America, not politics. 

There are no simple answers to any the problems we face…but a good start would be to stop blaming and start listening. I would say to grow up, but it's the grown ups that messed things up in the first place. We had it right in elementary school.


  1. lots of words to say essentially nothing... yeah we can listen all we want....but all we are being told is what to do. I also have problems with the OWS and the tea party(so we have some common ground on that) but your simple "solution" of listening is something I find rather comical. Americans are angry and the America you return to will look nothing like the one you left. A year is short and it is also long. Safe travels brother. I appreciate any American with an opinion so keep on keeping on.

  2. I never said it was a simple solution. Man, I wish there was one. I just think that maybe our first step would be to tone it down a bit and start listening to one another. Engage in the conversation rather than be told what to do or to tell people what to do. We're all angry and upset and downtrodden. That should unite us to find a better solution than split us and tear us apart.

    I hope with all my heart that things improve by the time I get back. There's a silver lining in all of this, though. I'm finding that people have more things in common than we think. Generally, people are good. Everyone that I talk to, whether they agree with any of my standpoints are not, do things with good intentions. That's something good in a time like this.