A Word from Atop the Soapbox

We have met the enemy and they is us.
~ Pogo

Muse. Muse. Muse.

Ponder. Ponder. Ponder.

I’ve been mulling, nay marinating, on something for quite a while now.

You know, it’s kind of a weird time here in the old U S of A. There’s a lot going on. A lot.

Everyone has an opinion. Which is great. It’s what this country was built on. Although I am dean of the school of thought that says you only get to voice said opinion if you vote, but that’s another rant for another time.

But. And with any good rant, there’s always a “but”… the way these opinions are being expressed isn’t quite as great, at least from where I’m sitting.

We are, y’all, a nation divided at the moment. Left. Right. Liberal. Conservative. Republican. Democrat. The Great Divide runs right down the middle of the Canyon of Ideology. And it’s getting wider and wider with each passing day and with each refreshing of your Twitter feed.

Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people.
~ Jane Addams

I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
~ Jackie Robinson

As a reasonably aware person – I try to keep up as much as my crazy life will allow – I know that politics as usual these days is an intense place to be. The immediacy of the way we communicate allows voices to be heard, information to be shared, action to be taken – all fused with intelligence and passion. What’s missing, as I see it?

Respect. And hearing. Not just listening – but hearing.

I have a behavioral meme I run with my Choir Urchins at least three times during a rehearsal period – I call it a Gimme Five. When Miss Janey says “Gimme Five”, that means she wants looking eyes, listening ears, quiet mouths, hands to yourself, feet on the floor.

We could all use a Gimme Five moment, y'all. Sooner, rather than later.

Because right now, we’re mired in the muck of disrespect. Closed-mindedness. And not hearing anything but what we want to hear – which is most likely a parroting of our own deeply held views.

It’s not getting us anywhere. Anywhere productive, anyhoo.

It’s been about talk. Not so much about action.

Vitriolic language is bantered about to make points. It’s become sport.

Guess what?

Incendiary language doesn’t put food on a table.

Snarky 140 character blips don’t help a family facing a mountain of medical bills and a moat of insurance issues

Divisive comments don’t get that guy off the unemployment line and onto the route to having a job. And feeling good about himself.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words take up residence. Bones heal. Takes a lot more to evict words that hurt or sting.

Lest you think I’m merely pontificating from up here on my soapbox… I’m not innocent. I own my culpability in this one. I can wield my tongue with a sharp snarkiness that points and pokes. I watched the war of words and worlds escalate on social media between ideological opposites immediately following the Tucson shootings. When pointing fingers took president over concern for the injured, I vowed to curb it. Reel it in.

It’s damaging. It’s ridiculous.

Most of all -- it’s not productive.

And above all, I’m about things that are productive.

Somewhere, somehow, in a world when we know about news almost before it happens and the court of public opinion is fluid and viral and fickle -- we’ve lost sight of what matters.

Making a positive difference.

The art of compromise.

The impact of collaboration.




The seduction of a soundbite or a re-tweet is palpable. And like it or not, pundits have solidified their place in our society where processing news filtered through ideological cheesecloth is a national pastime. However, said pundits have a tendency to become the news themselves (Mr. Olbermann and Ms. Palin, I’m looking at both of you…) further muddling the real issues.

We’re going to have our fair share of such things in the next few days, as the President delivers the State of the Union address tonight. I’m thinking about watching it on C-SPAN, for as dry as that might be (it’s Sahara dust bowl dry, y’all), it’s the message straight up. With no chaser, left right or center.

When all is said and done, the one thing that cannot be disputed (and should never be disputed. Ahem.) is that everyone, in his or her own way, loves this country. Just as it’s no one’s place to pass judgment on whether another person is religious-enough, it’s no one’s place to judge whether another person is patriotic-enough.

And PS: all those folks who look at things differently than you – they are not bad people. They are not stereotypes. They are individuals. Part of the whole. And they should be respected and treated as such.

This land really is our land, my fellow Americans – from California to the New York Island. Working together to make it the best place it can be would do more to honor the intent and action of our founding fathers than any amount of spewing rhetoric could dream of doing.

I’m ready. Are you?

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate...

...Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us...

...And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

~ President John F. Kennedy


Anonymous said...
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bronsont said...

Good post, thank you. I'm of the "we may not agree, but we can respectfully disagree" school. It's a shame there aren't more graduates of that esteemed institution.

Ruprecht said...

*"amens" to being guilty … claps wildly at this posting*

Donna said...

I'll give you five and raise a high five. You rock Mama!

sorenj said...

"And PS: all those folks who look at things differently than you – they are not bad people. They are not stereotypes. They are individuals. Part of the whole. And they should be respected and treated as such."

Love it!! (pretty fond of the rest of it as well... well said :)

karin said...

Well said Janey! I am clapping furiously in my living room!