Speaking To Each Other in Partisan America
What do we need to do to learn to speak to each other? I've noticed that we have become such a divided people, that we cannot ever say that folks we disagree with, dislike, are not of our party, are ever right. We loose a lot of the strength of our point when we concentrate on, for example, the intellect of George Bush. His intellect is not the issue, it is his actions and his programs. I have seen this among Quakers, we tolerate, support even Friends in ad hominem attacks, and wonder why we are as divided as the rest of the nation.
I have a friend, an anarchist, who cannot say a good word for the police or most folks in uniform. The other day he was speaking of the inherent stupidity of court officers. Then he began to speak about the exception, the court officer who had again and again been kind to him.
Maybe we need a series of exercises to retrain us, away from insult and to get to be able to speak to each other, not at each other. There is a flow chart in our meetinghouse on how to judge one's message, and if, it is political, personally from the ego... to return to centering. I think we need to help each other to do this. No, Paul, I do not think it is a minor thing to accuse another Friend of whining, when that Friend is frustrated and hurt from the faithful attempt at fulfilling his service. This does not mean that I think Martin is ... any number of words one might place, as name calling, mean, wrong, a bully ... but, rather, he is, as we all often are, in need of the eldering we as Friends enter as the agreement to not have a hierarchical faith.
So ... what is it to call someone a name. Someone says something unkind. Let's say someone says that another has not told the truth. Name calling equals "That Friend is a liar" What is the Quaker way, "That Friend and I are not in unity on the conclusions..." This second way is an opening for the "liar" to explain his or her truth to thee. Name calling is a shut door. We have a profound tradition of it, that Friends should practice and help each other. Most Friends, traditionally, when I was young, did not use words like "murderer" "liar" "thief" "Bum" etc. We are NOT what we do, even if it is proven that we have done what we are accused of doing. Once named, it is almost impossible to come back from that label. The same is true of labeling another's actions subjectively. It is not speaking to the truth to say that Friend Jeavons was whining. In point of fact, he was speaking his truth as he saw it. To call it whining is just simply not to speak the truth, it is not only insulting, it is not truthful.
Speaking with precision and kindness and care is core to being a Quaker. So, I say this in answer to Paul's note to me, not as an unkind response but expecting to be eldered as well when I stray from that loving path. Sometimes truths are direct and not polite. Politeness expects the other is not big enough to hear truth in light of error. But more, eldering expects a community loving enough not only to listen, but not to slam doors in each others face. In this, I still, now very publicly call on Martin Kelly to meet with me for clearness on things he has written to me which I find to be not within our tradition of loving confrontation.