Once again, there is a hue and cry surrounding the tragedy in Orlando. Before we truly knew how many people were injured, traumatized, or even killed, the incident was already being used as justification to bolster all causes. Pro-gun, anti-gun, hate crimes, terrorism....go ahead, pick a topic, any topic. People were shouting from the rafters on all sides of the event. And yet, nobody is listening. God gave us two ears and one mouth which should give all of us a true revelation of which activity is more valuable. Unfortunately drama sells ad space. People tend to show up for train wrecks and sewer explosions in great numbers.
The reality is that nobody ever really learns anything while telling everyone else what to think. Most learning occurs with observation, (Note, we have two eyes as well.), and of course, listening, gathering as much information as possible for analysis. Certainly, we all have a right to our opinions, and also a right to express those opinions, but we are all making so much noise, we have denied ourselves the opportunity to gather facts and come to rational conclusions. Society is hurting because we do not consider our words and actions, but rather exhibit knee jerk responses based wholly on inflamed emotions including fear, anger, frustration, and even confusion. And the same arguments continue endlessly without any useful solutions. We become more and more polarized, more isolated, more mistrustful, so any sort of exchange of information or perspective becomes impossible.
I suppose the effect is exaggerated in a campaign year with so many politicians trying to curry favor with voters. Every incident becomes fodder for campaign speeches, but that does a real disservice to the voting public. Just look at the footage and see that all candidates are shouting at us, just like the parents whom we tuned out completely as teens. We are put in the position of being children, incapable of determining what is right for ourselves and our families, but reliant on an outside entity, be it an arm of government or an elected official, to be our protector, our defender, the proverbial knight in shining armor. It is patronizing in the extreme, and should be offensive to every thinking individual. Not only do the news outlets structure stories to be as sensational as possible, to elicit that knee jerk reaction, but politicians play on our emotions rather than addressing our intellect to earn our respect and votes. And as long as we continue to behave like unruly children, refusing to take the time to listen and demand substance instead of buzz words, catch phrases and sensationalism, we can expect no better treatment from our government or the media.
It has been said that the average newspaper is written at a 5th or 6th grade level. What does that say about how the media views its audience? Television newscasts have become the adult version of Sesame Street, and are possibly a result of the generations who have grown to adulthood with sound bytes of information. Each story is tailored to fit into a 30 second to 2 minute episode, and then quickly discarded as they move to the next topic. We are often left with questions unanswered. I fear, as a result, many of us have stopped asking the questions, because it seems that the in depth answers are never forthcoming. We are overwhelmed with choices for information between television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the internet, but yet there is no way to determine the veracity of the sources. In a heightened emotional climate, it is human nature to latch onto the information that supports our notions and reject what doesn't fit our views. The most important step in formulating opinion, the ability to analyze information for accuracy and validity, seems to be a casualty of a world with instant communication. Any one of us can find justification for our emotional reaction without going any farther than our smart phone. We hear what we want to hear and stop listening while our side is winning.
We have lost the ability to respect any other assessment of the facts beyond our own. People who do not agree are immediately written off as cranks, crackpots, stupid, and worse. In fact, asking for additional facts, and reserving judgement, can have a person labelled as racist, a hater of women and children, a fanatic, or as somebody trying to precipitate argument and violence. If the opposing view is shouted, we seem to shout louder. As we all have unique life stories, our experiences color the way we analyze our world. A person can disagree, based upon their experiences, and have a rational reason for their beliefs. While that reason might not be your own, and might not match your experience, to reject it out of hand is to reject the person who holds that opposing view. Nobody seeks rejection on a personal level, so the stage has been adequately set to play out animosity rather than understanding. We seem compelled to force everyone to our world view, which only seems to push people farther apart, into ever smaller factions. Louder is stronger, right? It is easy to make each faction believe that they are being put upon, when nobody acknowledges the basic right of each person to think and behave as an individual. Disagreements over an idea or theory translates into an almost physically perceived threat, eliciting a flight or fight response.
If we wish to reduce our stress, anxiety, and fears, we need to follow Grandpa's good advice of making sure that your brain is engaged before your mouth is in gear. Quiet the noise and allow people to digest events and analyze the facts. We might find a great deal less violence overall, and quite possibly, more agreement than disagreement. Listen more than you speak and social interchange automatically becomes more respectful, less confrontational. An idea can be rejected without rejecting the person. It is as simple as giving them a hearing instead of shouting them down or insulting them outright Listening is not implied agreement, but it does show that everyone is free to think and speak their minds. Listening does not require us to change our minds. And listening is infinitely quieter.