In recent news we heard how Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina shouted, “you lie” at President Obama during his speech on health reform to the joint congress. In the days to follow I heard much talk about this, and in people’s sharings there was a sense of despair and hopelessness that we will not be able to work things out with such disparity of views and incivility in the public realm. How can we work towards the common good if we can’t even talk to one another?
I’m guessing that if you are reading this you aren’t a member of Congress, so let me bring this sense of “name calling” to our own lives. Where do you assume bad intentions of another person when their words or actions don’t meet up with your needs and expectations? I’m guessing it’s rather often. How can we work towards the common good if we in our own lives can’t talk to another without “name calling” and assuming we know what the other person means and what they intend?
Perhaps in your own life it might be like this. A friend of yours did not show up for a date you had set to go to dinner. You think, “she doesn’t care for me enough to call,” or “she never really wanted to be with me, I’m boring. I just wish she wouldn’t lie to me.” What if you checked out your paranoia by calling her and saying that you were disappointed that you didn’t have a chance to share this planned meal together and would she be willing to tell you what happened, why she didn’t show up?” You might get responses such as “My child was sick and we had to go to the emergency room,” or “I was so depressed I could not even get to the phone to call you.” This might be an opening for honest communication and a deepening relationship, or perhaps a deepening connection to life for both of you.
If we can hold onto this dream of how to communicate with one another, maybe one day, an angry and frustrated Representative might instead call up the President and say, “I am do disappointed with the process of legislation and I wonder if you’d be willing to talk with me about your values, views, and strategies so that we might come up with a plan that serves the common good and not just our individual or party agenda?”
If we could do this, we as a people would shout not “you lie” but would shout with gladness.