Bend Your Ear A Tick

6 Apr

A decade ago, I ran for public office, and I learned two things. One, everyone has a cause. Two, everyone just wants to be heard. In a democracy constitutional republic, if you want to represent, you must also listen, and yet, it is the hardest thing in the world to actually do.

Think about your own life–social media and the twenty-four news cycle has generated so much talking that it has become background noise. When I see CNN or Fox News on the screen in a bar, the volume is turned down, and I might barely read the captioning… but I see the headlines. The news agencies have realized that. They need to get your attention first, and then, pump out content going to keep your attention on the screen. Hence the public discourse has moved to the extremes, to either get you interested or outraged.

If you read this blog, you know that I fall right of center… or at least, I used to. By modern standards, I’m an arch-conservative. But what I’m grateful for is that you bother to read these words. You bother to “listen.” Now that doesn’t seem like much to ask, but ask yourself, whom in your own family do you actually listen to?

Take my own–my wife tunes me out when talking about my writing projects, I tune her out when talking about her research. When my son hit superheroes, I just patiently wait, and when my daughter mentions her friends at school, I just wait as well. At extended family dinners, there was one uncle that you never talked religion around (kinda difficult with two ministers in the family), because frankly, that’s ALL he wanted to talk about.

So when I ran for office, I would run into the person who was passionate about gun rights, then next minute, the person who was fired up about abortion. After that, I would run into the person who wanted to repeal half the amendments to the constitution. Who do you actually listen to?

This last year, with people unable to listen to each other, they’ve become angrier than ever. Some even go out into the streets. When I’ve gone to a march or a rally in the past, what I’ve learned is that everyone is there for very different reasons. When I write my congressman, I get a form letter back, and I do not feel respected. Then again, he represents hundreds of thousands of people. When I wrote my state reps, I was pleasantly surprised that I got a personal letter back–he disagreed with me, but he was very polite, and I appreciated the effort.

Even with folks I would mark “crazy,” you can sometimes get something out of it. “Repeal half the Constitution” guy changed my mind on the popular election of senators (17th Amendment). In case you’re curious, short version: the people should be represented by the House, states (by their legislatures) in the Senate. However, I marked the guy as “crazy” from the beginning, so it was so much easier to tune him out.

My wife’s pet peeve is not being listened to, and so in a world that progressively doesn’t listen, she’s pissed off a lot more often. My own boss has “yelled” at me to slow down, not just immediately answer/correct a problem a client has to get it off my plate, and research what the real trouble is. (Usually because I screw it up worse when I fix it quickly.) When we’re told to “work hard, play hard,” slowing down to actually listen to someone and do it right is the hardest of all. When we slow down, you might be surprised what you learn.

Of course, what you might learn is that “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.” Or that, “Gee, maybe I shouldn’t talk religion around my uncle.” Is it worth listening to everyone? How do you determine when you tune someone out or not? Let me know in the comments below! If you still like “listening” to my voice, check our my books. However, if $1.99 is too rich for your blood, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. But thank you for reading either way; it’s good to be heard.

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