from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

acknowledging the important but often overlooked? 

crossposted from dailykos

My message to you tonight is simple. Stay true. Hew to the facts and to your ideals. Listen with respect, but do not cede an inch to intolerance and lies.

Those words were near the end of don’t back down, the diary last night by the wonderful kid oakland. The title is also the last line of the diary.

I have written before on what was important and non-negotiable. Last August I wrote Important versus non-negotiable - with poll. And in July I had written I am unwilling to remain silent anymore. Perhaps, provoked by kid oakland, I am again at a point where I reflect on what is important.

This is not directly a response to kid oakland. Neither will it be an overarching philosophical statement. It is Saturday morning, a time for acknowledging the important but often overlooked.

Important but often overlooked. That's how I titled this. Perhaps you do not overlook these things, but unfortunately I cannot make the same claim for myself. So perhaps this is a personal chastisement.

I will offer only a very few ideas that are important to me, and which I sometime neglect, or overlook. Then I will attempt to explain why I think them relevant to share on a blog dedicated to the political purpose of electing Democrats.

1) I don't want to go to sleep, or leave the house, or hang up on a phone call with Leaves on the Current without remembering to say "I love you." I am approaching 61, I don't want the last words between us, should something happen, to be anything that does not reflect the experience of a love now more than 3 decades old.

2) I don't want an interchange with another person to deny that person's humanity and essential worth. As a teacher I know how important it is to give hope of learning, of growing, even as I must insist upon responsibility. As myself a shy and insecure person I also know how important it is to receive some sense of validation of worth even as I also receive the criticism necessary to give me the opportunity to grow. And as a Quaker, as I so often note, I wish to emulate the words of George Fox to walk gladly across the earth answering that of God in every person.

3) I want to be able to freely admit when I don't know something.

4) I should remember to offer thanks to others whenever possible. This does not have to be gratuitous or smarmy, but it is essential.

5) I want to more readily accept thanks and praise from others.

The first item underlies everything else I do. If in my most important and essential relationship I do not acknowledge my interdependence and how much it matters, I am not prepared to participate in the political processes. My participation has to be for a purpose beyond self-aggrandisement, or power for the sake of power whether for myself or for others I support. Power should be for the purpose of helping others, empowering them, giving them more freedom. To me love gives freedom to the one loved. I do not say this well. I cannot force one I love to do anything, but I can hold her up, encourage her to take risks knowing that I will still love. Our politics should be a politics of love, not of fear and control.

Answering that of God in every person. It's an odd statement, since I really don't concern myself with God. I justify this in part by noting that in Orthodox Christian theology each human being is, since the Incarnation, himself an icon or image of the divine. And I remember the Biblical challenge: how can we say we love God whom we cannot see when we hate our brother whom we can see? If my political actions are driven more by anger, by desire for retribution, than by attempting to answer that of God in another, then the chances of finding common ground in our common humanity become limited. I remember once telling someone running for the nomination for Congress (which he got although he lost the general) that he could not be seen as rude to a voter who was not first rude to him. When he complained that the woman in the incident was not going to vote for him anyhow, I pointed out the issue was how the interchange was perceived by others, that his actions were demeaning to her and thus might put off others who witnessed the exchange. That's a practical political matter. For me it is a moral issue. I believe that no person is beyond redemption. I may reject the action I encounter, but I do not reject the person, the possibility that there may at some point in the future be an issue on which we can agree and move forward. I will stand firm on the matter of any action with which I disagree or find repugnant, but by not finally rejecting the person behind that action I leave open the possibility of change.

The third point is key. As a teacher it is tempting not to admit lack of knowledge. Not admitting gives control. And I would guess it is difficult for those seeking political office to admit lack of knowledge for fear of being seen as weak or incompetent. But people are often willing to help us, if only we let them. And if our political participation is, as is the case for me, intended to improve life for others, we inevitably need their understanding and their participation. We need to hear their voices, see with their eyes. As a teacher if I do not listen to my students, give them opportunity to teach me, I cannot help them learn as much as they might otherwise.

The final two points are very much connected, the giving and accepting of praise and thanks. Perhaps this is not an issue for others. And perhaps those in the political trenches are wary of praising an idea of an opponent, or thanking someone with whom one has had and will again have political disputes. It may make us wary when they say nice things about one of our ideas, as we attempt to ascertain what their real motivation is in even temporarily offering us something other than criticism or ridicule. Perhaps this ties back to the second point, answering that of God in another person. I might comment, tactically, that by reacting with grace and positiveness towards such an offering I might actually turn what was intended as a set-up for the next attack into something that is actually a genuine connection. I might also note that politically it is like my exchange with the Congressional candidate who did not understand that every action he did was experienced not only by those to whom he directed it but also by others who could observe.

Let me be clear. In what I have said I do not in any way intend that one ignore intolerance or lies, or abandon what one believes to be essential. In the second of my previous diaries cited above I made clear when I would not remain silent. I would not remain silent in the presence of a Don Imus demeaning others, even as I would thank him for his willingness to help others less fortunate than himself. "Hold fast that which is good." Another line that echoes in the empty spaces of my mind.

I wish I could write with the grace of others whose work I admire. My awkwardness with words may be because these ideas are not yet fully formed in my mind, or more likely because I have not yet learned how to live them.

It is important to tell people that you love them, that you care for them. That applies to children, spouses, good friends.

It is important to treat people with as much respect as possible, even when their actions seem to indicate a lack of respect for others or even themselves. We do not have to lower ourselves to the levels to which others resort, and in being firm in this we give challenge to the idea that demeaning behavior and words is something either necessary or ultimately effective in the political process.

If we do not acknowledge when we do not know, we may lose the opportunity to learn from an expert who is reluctant to impose her knowledge and insight upon us,someone apparently unwilling to admit less than perfection, even though all of us can still grow, and learn.

Thank you Two of the most powerful words possible. That is acknowledging what another has given us, even when it may challenge us, or make us uncomfortable. And this is a two-way communication, being willing to offer it and to accept it. It is an acknowledgement of our interconnectedness, and why we need to pay attention to one another.

I have offered above nothing particularly profound. And yet, the accumulation of seemingly small gestures can have a profound affect on the human heart and consciousness, as the series of drops of water can eventually erode the hardest rock.

So I thank kid oakland for offering something that provoked me to this reflection. I thank kos for providing a forum where we can mutually explore and share ways of making our world and ourselves better. And I thank you for being tolerant with my prolixity in offering something that is realistically nothing more than some fairly basicd and simple ideas. They may be important, and surely they are far too often overlooked.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?