Autumn has always been my favorite season. Â It is a time of change, of new beginnings. Â As a child, it meant Â the return to school, reunion with friends, reliefÂ from the oppressive summer heat. I loved the smells, the sounds, the feel of autumn. Â The rustle of wind through the falling leaves, the smell of apples cooking, the taste of pumpkin pies, the calls of the geese migrating south, the chill in the air. Â I loved it all.
But this is an autumn like no other. Â We are in the grip of a deadly and relentless pandemic on the threshold of fluÂ season. Â Within seven short months (can that beÂ true?) we have lost over 200,000 lives to coronavirus in the US and ar eapproaching 1 million worldwide. Â Over that same period, we have weathered devastating hurricanes, floods, and riots. Â Fires still rage over much of the West coast. Unemployment is at unprecedented levels and we are in a contentious political battle for the presidency. Â This is Â uncharted territory.
We’re all in this together; we hear this a lot. And we seem to agree on this. Â But we don’t agree on how to get out the situation we find ourselves in. Â The popular response seems to be to blame each other for our problems. Â It Â has become a national pastime. We need only to channel surf or go on social media to find a rabid champion for our cause. Â No insult, no accusation is off limits. Â We wear our stubborn allegiance Â like a badge of honor. Vicious name-calling, unheard of a decade ago, is embedded in the national dialog. Common courtesy no longer unifies us; we are drifting into dangerous waters.
In a recent conversation with a friend, I railed about the corrupt and self-seeking motives of a certain political group, and threw in a few unflattering slurs for good measure. Surely she agreed with my position, after all, she is my friend, an intelligent and thoughtful person. But as her smile stiffened to a grimace, Â it was clear she didnâ€™t agree. Â At. All. To my chagrin, Â not only had my insensitive, and face it, tasteless, Â comment threatened a friendship, it Â had made meaningful discourse on the topic impossible. Â Worse, I wasn’t presenting a reasoned argument, only popular opinions, not even my own.
I am not proud of this behavior. Â I need to change. Â Uncomfortable as it is, Â I need to listen respectfully to the other point of view if I want peace in my family, with my friends, in my community.
But why listen to my opponent? Â Why entertain her point of view, when she probably wonâ€™t listen to mine. Â And even so, Iâ€™m just one person among millions. Â Perhaps true, but more importantly, being that self-righteous, intolerant person just does not serve me well. Â I don’t like how it feels.
And who knows, if a few people become open to listenIng and a few more listen to those people and a few more……
Wait! Â Isn’t that how the virus spreads?