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The day after the midterm elections ...

This blog post will be appearing on the day after the midterm elections.  As I write a few hours before results are in, we are still reeling from the recent violence caused by racial and religious hatred and, in the case of the pipe-bombs, by an apparent inability to deal with anger stemming from intolerance. More hatred, clothed slightly differently.

But by the time this is posted, we will have had an election, one that may make a huge change in how our country is to manage its affairs or may further empower those who have been in charge for the last two years. I will not hide that my hope has been for the change.

However, whatever the outcome in the control of various seats of power, I will continue to hold out another hope, one that is longer in scope than a single election and broader than any single electoral victory or defeat. It is that we – all of us – will commit to teach, learn, and continue to build the practices we need that will sustain us as a community, one community. 

And one of the most basic of these practices is listening.

We are having difficulty listening to one another right now. Just a few words are said and we “know” that person is for or against the thing we “know” is right or wrong. We quickly blast out with a comeback, as if we are living in a sitcom. Without subtlety or nuance, without putting ourselves in the other’s shoes, we “know” the most important things about them and we know how to tell them off. 

Of course, we don’t “know” and the more we insist we do, the less well we listen. And as we stop listening to others, the habit of introspection, of listening to what we ourselves are thinking and then questioning it, also deteriorates.

We believe things that make no sense because we saw them on Facebook or on TV, and everyone else saw them and repeats them. We don’t stop to actually listen, so we don’t actually think, so we allow ourselves to be convinced by sound bites, ads, glib memes in every format.  And the bonds of our community are weakened by public discourse that lacks dignity and integrity.


I believe there is one thing that we really do know:  we are only going to sustain what is good and change what is not good if we work together. That is a simple idea, easy to say and hard to do. And we cannot even start on it if we continue to shout at each other so loudly that we cannot hear.


Elaine Learnard
Member, Conscience Bay Quaker Meeting

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