Listen first, then we can talk

By The Herald Editorial Board

We don’t need to talk about the most recent shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, nor the massacre of five police officers in Dallas as a peaceful protest wound down Thursday night.

We don’t need to talk as much as we need to listen.

We feel the need to say something. We’re desperate to be heard and understood.

But too often our attempts at discussions resemble the ready-to-blast memes on Facebook and Twitter that fit our preconceptions of the situation. Uncertain of what to say ourselves or unwilling to give consideration to a different opinion, we pretend that someone else’s clever phrase, often lacking a basis in fact or a deeper understanding of the situation, will add to the discussion.

Instead, it alienates and widens the divide and prevents an understanding of what the other side is saying.

We need to listen.

We need to listen to disheartened law enforcement officers who feel as if they and their profession are under attack because of the actions of others over which they have no control. The five officers who died in Dallas, and seven others who were injured, were there to protect the safety of the public during a peaceful demonstration that voiced horror over the week’s earlier deadly use of force by police elsewhere.

We need to listen to those of racial and religious minorities who can show that too often they are viewed with suspicion by the public and police because of their skin color or their beliefs. In our own county, a religous community’s plans to build a house of worship were met with an initially anonymous email campaign and protest signs that viewed those of the Muslim faith as a potential threat rather than as neighbors.

We need to listen because the divisions between us are becoming gulfs that become more difficult to bridge as we isolate ourselves from the views of others and listen only to those with whom we agree.

Dan Balz, chief correspondent for The Washington Post, noted in a commentary Friday morning that the political divide, red vs. blue, has grown in recent years and has added its own force to widen the rift in racial and religious divisions:

“The current presidential campaign has worsened the political divisions, unleashing anger and rhetoric and hostility across the political divide,” Balz writes. “The candidacy of Donald Trump has contributed to this, with his attacks on Mexicans and Muslims. But his support is in part an expression of frustration on the part of Americans who also feel neglected and disrespected by the political classes, inevitably causing a widening of the gap.”

To be fair, Friday morning, the prospective Republican nominee, in a written statement, condemned the murders of officers in Dallas but also the “senseless, tragic deaths of two motorists in Louisiana and Minnesota.”

“Our nation has become too divided,” Trump said in the statement.

So, yes, we especially need to listen to those we have long disagreed with.

We need to listen to those we believe are wrong about their preconceptions and prejudices about ourselves, our communities, our faiths and our politics. We need to listen so we can understand where the differences lie in opinion and beliefs. But we also need to listen so we can understand where we share values in our opinions and beliefs.

There’s much we need to talk about, but let’s listen, first.

Talk to us

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