How many of you watched the national presidential debate? Hands up, please.
Yes, I see that you and you and you watched it. A bunch of you didn’t.
I didn’t either.
I have already made my mind up where to cast this vote–and it’s not the current president of the United States of America.
I might write paragraph after paragraph stating all personal political views, but that’s not what this post is about. It simply hurts too much to share my frustration about the current political situation, and those words would not change a single person’s mind, except perhaps that very rare person who hasn’t yet claimed a political opinion in this wild & crazy 2020 year we’re living.
It seems like we’ve all reached our definitive beliefs and opinions and we really mostly don’t know how to talk to one another civilly anymore. Case in point: the presidential debate. (My husband listened to all two hours of the debacle and can talk intelligently about his takeaways, as can other family members.)
The point of this blog post is that I had my own “political debate” on Monday afternoon. It happened so unexpectedly and shocked me to the core. Here’s what happened:
I walked slowly up the road on a beautiful late September afternoon. Smiling, happy, delighted with autumn red and orange and yellow leaves. Smelling the wet dirt. Listening to geese honking–maybe somewhere down near the bay. Happy because I’d just posted a FUN blog about chickens and ducks and storytellers. Oh what a perfect afternoon! Grin, grin.
A couple approached. Very unusual–to see fellow walkers on our rural road. But hello walkers? You’re from Nebraska, you say? Oh, one of you was born here, and you’re coming back to spend time at the family camp? Wonderful–oh haven’t we met walking on the road a few years ago?
Light, lovely conversation. My smile increased.
The smiling gentleman started talking about the coronavirus. And then lambasted Democrat governors. And it slid quickly downhill from there…into political/virus nightmare-land.
He kept smiling. He reached the part of his monologue where he shared that “really, you know, only 9,000 people have died of the virus”. That’s when my smile disappeared, this heart started racing, and the Beesley Road debate started. Biden vs. Trump. Drue vs. Nebraska Man.
You must know–if you know me at all–that I really do TRY to listen respectfully to another person’s opinions. To listen below what they’re saying into their often good human heart. To allow them their space, integrity and right to express themselves.
But I find this particular 9,000 statistic unpalatable as someone who has studied virus statistics daily for over six months. Here’s what I might have said if I had time to logically and calmly think: Yes, Nebraska Man. You may be right in that 9,000 folks died SOLELY of coronavirus in the U.S. with no other symptoms or causes of death. But 200,000 others have died of complications and underlying conditions related to the virus. And it’s probably even more than the official count. Over ONE MILLION world-wide, and it’s not a Democrat-Republican thing around the entire globe.
You are attempting to minimize the virus–to say it’s not as much a killer as we’ve been “led to believe”. You’re trying to make a political point that the lockdowns and quarantines were misguided. You’re urging individual rights versus a common health care crisis. Heck, you may even hold conspiracy theories. (OK, wouldn’t have said that last sentence.)
As he accosted this innocent walker with his opinions–OK, gentle reader–I could not remain silent. Not one second longer.
“You are wrong about your statistics, and I do not believe them at all,” said I in strong assertive tones. “This does not take into account–“
And, gentle reader, he pulled a Trump! He started talking over me. TALKING ON TOP OF MY WORDS! He wouldn’t even allow me to speak!
What’s a heart-pounding formerly-happy walker to do?
I made a fierce decision to keep TALKING OVER HIM.
We kept talking sentence over sentence for at least two minutes, neither one really hearing what the other said.
(The poor hapless wife looked horrified, utterly horrified, at the direction this conversation was heading. She, too, thought they were just having a nice happy rural road walk in beautiful Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.)
We then basically said goodbye.
“Stay well, stay healthy!” the wife called as we parted, attempting to clear the air.
I walked–rather, marched–up the road trying to calm down.
First takeaway: I was kinda proud of myself for speaking up and not remaining silent, and not endlessly listening with respectful compassion. YES! Sometimes it’s necessary to open the mouth and tell what we believe.
Second: Neither one of us changed any opinions one iota from this exchange. No winners here.
Third: I could have expressed myself in a calm rational way that didn’t talk over him, wasn’t condescending, looked for common ground. (More along the lines of Non-Violent Communication, a book I must open up and actually now read.)
After hearing about the presidential debate the next night–I truly felt more compassion for Biden. How in the world does one respond when someone tries to talk over you? I also vowed to learn how to better respond in situations like this in the future.
Rough times we’re living in, right?
P.S. If any random passerby reader wants to debate or argue in the comments–it’s not gonna happen. I’m more interested in how we can become better communicators and compassionate human beings, rather than pounding each other with sharp axes and knives of cutting words, each trying to score our points. (Still learning on this end! You too? Or have you mastered this “art”?)