Dr. Wayne Baker welcomes writer Daniel Buttry, author of Blessed Are the Peacemakers.
Here is Dan’s second report this week …
Are you sick of all the toxicity of our political discourse? From the local to the national level it seems we have sunk to new lows of viciousness. Ideology seems to rule the day instead of constructive dialog and problem-solving. Politics used to be defined as the “art of compromise,” but it seems a lost art today. The way we talk to each other in public life is not serving our country well.
George Lakey frequently breathes a prayer that is worthy of emulation: “Help me to see this from a different point of view.” George says this is a prayer that has always been answered positively in his experience. It sounds like a prayer we desperately need in our political lives today.
George is a social activist and educator featured in Blessed Are the Peacemakers. He is a trainer who uses what he calls “direct education” to open people up to the possibilities and power within them to effect social change. He certainly has strong values and opinions to the point of often engaging in civil disobedience, most recently over the destruction of mountain tops to rip out the coal underneath.
But for all his passion and commitment George is no ideologue. His prayer opens his mind and heart to the experiences of others, even those whom he opposes. During the Vietnam War he stopped by to support a peace demonstration by women. Across the street from the women were men in an angry counter-demonstration. So George set up a little table with a sign “A Man Willing to Listen to Men.” After sitting there a while a man came over to talk. Finding George sincere in his offer to listen, the man began to talk. George asked probing questions that invited the male demonstrator to go deeper. As the man talked, he became more thoughtful as he pondered what was going on within him and around him. He moved from ideology to at least openness. As George listed to more men, the level of hostility in the demonstration dramatically decreased.
We don’t have to agree to be able to listen to each other. Sometimes we might find that the person on the other side holds real values, concerns, fears and hopes. We might even discover echoes of our own hearts in the hearts of others that get expressed in very different views about various issues.
Are you willing to risk that prayer, “Help me see from a different point of view”?
Are you ready to be open to the new perspectives that might emerge and shake what you once thought was so solid and sure?
Are you ready to respect people who take very different positions from you?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.