Is Anybody Listening?

Image: Two birds interact on the edge of a birdbath. (Andrew Martin / Pixabay)

It’s a war out there. I’m talking about social media, but also our culture at large. I say it is a “war” because all I hear about is the need to fight.

The lefties are talking about the need to fight xenophobia, racism, white supremacy, white nationalism, misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrationism, Trumpism, ICE, and Republicans, especially #Mitch. Some lefties are talking about the need to fight Zionism.

Folks on the right are talking about the need to fight Constitution-haters, liberals, socialists, communists, snowflakes, elites, Bernie Sanders, the Squad, reverse-racism, housewife haters, and Democrats, especially NancyPelosi. Some on the right are talking about the need to fight race traitors, the #Clintons, George Soros, and Jews.

And yes, I imagine I may have gotten your dander up just a little, with those lists. You’re thinking, “Not ALL…” or “Damn straight, someone has to fight for their principles!” and wondering what is wrong with me, that I don’t see the imperative to fight for what is right.

We’ve all got our talking points. I have mine, too – just read through a few posts on this blog, if you doubt me. We stand on our soapboxes and we holler our talking points at each other and when our words don’t make an impression, we start cussing, and when cussing doesn’t do it, we think of the meanest thing we can say and we throw that at those fools who Refuse. To. Get. It.

And what have we accomplished, after years of this?

We are screaming mad at one another, with no common ground upon which to build a peace. Some of our anger is rooted in tragic losses and real events. Some of our anger has been nurtured – cultivated! – fertilized, even! – by people with something to gain from us all being too angry to do anything but fight.

What would happen if we were to find something to do other than fight? What if I were to ask the next person who calls me an ugly name that I’ll listen to them – really listen! – if we could just identify some common ground?

What if we told each other our deepest fears?

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

4 thoughts on “Is Anybody Listening?”

  1. “What if we told each other our deepest fears?” That would mean being vulnerable, and most folks are not comfortable with that. It is especially difficult to be vulnerable when people are angry, yelling at each other and closed off from listening to someone else. I don’t think people want to look for, or find common ground. To me it appears that many of those yelling on social media just want to be right at any cost. Any opinion other than the one they hold is considered wrong/bad and that becomes the end of any rational discussion and usually devolves into name calling and abuse. Wish I had an answer, the world has very much become an “us” and “them” mentality, lots of othering and you’re either “with” or “against”. Very sad state of affairs.

    1. I agree with you, about the ranting on social media. I am thinking more about the conversations I wind up in sometimes, when someone will say something hoping to provoke me or make a point and then look to me to see what I will say. “What do you find really scary about that?” will make for a more interesting time than the usual-usual. And I keep thinking that if they had to listen to themselves….?

  2. I would love to believe that this can work. My husband, Richard,
    and I have learned to avoid talking about politics or religion, when in settings with people who are staunch Trump supporters. It doesn’t move the needle toward softening of positions. On the other hand, there are many other things to talk about and share. And, this can lead to finding common ground or shared interests/experiences. It’s a start.

    1. I agree – avoiding political discussions is often the best way to go.

      I have a plan for the next time I get trapped with someone who insists on talking politics. I’m going to say, “Why does X scare you?” (with x whatever thing they are ranting about) and then I’m going to listen attentively. I’ll probably make a blog post about it if there are interesting results.

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