Listen before Speaking?

Just out of curiosity, and before writing the first word of this piece, I Googled “How many blogs exist today”? The answer -152 million. Wow, that’s a big number. That’s many, many people with a position, an idea, or a passion that they feel compelled to share with the world. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, maybe that sheer volume makes it seem a little less presumptuous for creating this first post.

So, here we go adding one more voice to the blogosphere.

When Sandy and I began talking about starting Common Ground, the election was several weeks away. There would soon be a new president who would inherit the nation’s leadership, and who would assume that role in a fractured, angry, and intolerant environment – certainly the worst in my lifetime. Maybe I’ve listened to Hamilton too many times, but I had a thought – “At least we don’t have duels anymore.”

This atmosphere of extreme hostility didn’t happen overnight. It’s not a Trump-Hillary phenomenon. And it’s not just political. Our nation has experienced extreme partisan politics since the Founding Fathers (once again reference Hamilton). This is some sort of perfect storm of politics, race, religion, sexuality, and all combinations of each. These conflicts are exacerbated by an onslaught of information (factual and otherwise) pushed in our faces by print, broadcast, and social media.

How can we hope to effect meaningful change in this environment? We suggest respectful, civil dialogue – an exchange of thoughts and ideas between people with very different opinions – maybe very different opinions. The most radical idea of all might be for each of us to listen before speaking. We are not so naïve as to dream of reaching agreement of every issue. That’s not possible. In fact, it might not even be desirable.

Our dreams are small. Let’s talk. And listen. We may actually find some Common Ground. And if we can achieve that, maybe we can serve as role models for our nation’s leaders who seem to need some help.

— Steve Smith