Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Monday, August 28, 2006

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.


At 10:28 AM, Blogger Plain Foolish said...

I've long thought that calling our political leaders, and especially Mr. Bush "stupid" lets him off the hook. If he were mentally incapable of understanding what it is he does, he would bear less culpability, not more, for the destruction and injustices he has let loose on the world.

It is only by acknowleging him as a real person that we can call on him to repent of the wickedness of war, the inhumanity of the death penalty, and the many injustices related to the distribution of wealth in this country. When will we turn to Mr. Bush and say to him that he has a responsibility to repent and to attempt to undo the harms he has helped to accomplish? And to say it not only for our own good, but in lovingkindness to Mr. Bush?

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Thee, Hannah! said...

I'll try to think of this the next time my father starts ranting about what a "moron" (his words, not mine) Bush is.

Unfortunately, if I don't think he's a moron, I may be tempted to think he's evil, and that's hardly an improvement. I want to think he's misguided or ignorant, but that seems like such an inadequate explanation for the disruption his administration has incited and has, as yet, done nothing to remedy. Suddenly, it all seems very complex. Sigh.

At 4:44 AM, Blogger Plain Foolish said...

That is my temptation, too. And one I have to call myself on. If he's evil, then why should he repent? *sigh*

At 2:17 PM, Blogger forrest said...

I don't think Quakers are suffering from insufficient wimpy rhetoric. (Consider the customary tone of 17th Century theological debate, where early Friends evidently felt right at home.)

If you say "That Friend and I are not in unity on the conclusions..." but you mean, "That statement is a culpably thoughtless error!"--this simply makes your speech less straightforward.

Sometimes the truth is: "That man is corrupt; he is possessed by an inhuman ideology which renders every public word he utters an evasion and a deception." That doesn't imply we should lose compassion for the man in question, stuggling with self-deception and his fears of what honesty might cost him. And it doesn't, as you say, make calling him "a liar" useful.

We naturally evaluate one another's behavior and state of mind, in our ongoing effort to make our lives safe and predictable.

This becomes "judgement" when our evaluation turns to condemnation--not merely our urge to punish what we dislike (another futile hope of self-protection!), but our failure to recognize hope for their repentance.

Not to recognize bad intentions (etc), where they exist, may be a Quaker practice but not one we should be proud of.

The object is to combine truth with love, knowing that neither one can be itself without the other.

[You might or might not find my earlier attempt to take up this issue: at
of interest. Also, 'friendly skripture study' is getting into a part of Revelation where it comes up.]


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