Elizabeth Warren was recently silenced for trying to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King that was critical of Senator Jeff Sessions’ nominations to be the Attorney General. The ensuing dialog has been — on the left critical of the Senators who silenced her and the words of Ms. King, and on the right critical of Ms. Warren’s lack of civility to a fellow Senator.
As we entrench ourselves in Republican and Democratic camps to spout the rights and wrongs of this incident, I believe we miss a critical lesson in democracy. One thing we can all agree on is the importance of our freedom of speech. For our democracy to work, we must all have a voice. Some of those voices will agree with us, but many will not. Our task is to learn to listen to all of them, both the ones that we agree with and the ones who challenge us to see a different reality. Instead of being threatened by an opinion that differs from ours, we can allow ourselves to learn from each other about experiences we haven’t had and perspectives that are new to us. This learning can help us refine our perspective into something better. But even if it doesn’t, we are still better off by respectfully listening because the act of hearing another person is an act of connection and every connection is an opportunity to find something we have in common and a basis to build a relationship on. I believe we will find that the things we have in common are far more important than the things that divide us. We will always have disagreements. We can let them continue to divide this country or we can model the way forward. In the interest of civility and peace, let us all find ways to open ourselves to respectful dialogue…Betsy