Gratitude Sunday: Civil Discourse 101

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I call the discourse of power any discourse that engenders blame, hence guilt, in its recipient.” Roland Barthes

Sunday Haiku
Chrysanthemum blooms,
bright face cheers late summer
warm days as nights chill.

Sunday Musings
I occasionally have exchanges with people who have no idea what civil discourse is. Many of these people default or resort to name-calling, derisive language, deflection, and demeaning labels, rather than expressing what drives the poor choice of words. I know expressing oneself is hard. I struggle with expression every day. Either I say too much or I say too little or as hard as I try to say it right I say it wrong.

Why are labels or names so divisive? We hear so much these days, words like republican, democrat, independent, progressive, socialist, conservative, and liberal, perfectly normal average everyday words, used like they are slurs in the same vein as the n-word. All these words imply blame and shame and guilt, and are hurtful when used in a misguided attempt to have or show status through words. Especially when there are so many words available in our vocabulary.

It’s easy to understand why words like idiot, moron, stupid, retard, and blowhard, or expletives are disparaging. They reflect a value judgment that may or may not have any basis in fact, or the fact may only be one-event specific to the individual using the word. I’d rather hear why the word should be applied rather than the word itself. Expletives are adjectives used for frightening effect because of the connotations they imply. I think I don’t mind dropping an f-bomb occasionally until I remember how I feel when the word is over- or inappropriately used; expletives resonate with violence. We don’t need more of that. I keep re-reading my copy of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (1999, interpersonal communications) by Marshall Rosenberg, as repetition enhances learning (as one of my favorite professors used to say), hoping the information will stick. I also try to be gentle and forgiving of others who have likely never been taught at home or at school or even at work how important civil and compassionate communication is.

Here’s an example of one word. Idiot used to mean a person who did not have the typical full complement of wit about him/herself. (See how I didn’t just say “stupid” or “brain-dead” there?) Saying “he’s an idiot” says nothing about the person being talked about and says so very much about the speaker’s biases. It says the speaker has issues with the person being talked about. I want to know why you use that word about this person. Now if one said, “he came to my house to visit and kicked my dog” that would give me more understanding. I would understand the person who kicked the dog is not necessarily an idiot, but the speaker who called him that thinks dog-kickers are idiots. I would think the dog-kicker is unnecessarily cruel, unless or until I found out the dog aggressively charged his crotch so he kicked the dog away in self defense to protect his body. And then I might be tempted to think (though not say out loud) the dog owner was an idiot for not training his dog not to charge at friends and strangers, but of course, he isn’t an idiot, he is merely a negligent and unconscientious dog owner.

See how complicated that all is? The joy of an essay is one can sit down with the words and work them and rework them until the proper tone is achieved. It’s a matter of time and application. With verbal discourse it’s much harder because as you are listening and absorbing the words and attitudes of the other speaker, your mind is ripping right along its own path in preparation of a response. Those good old neurotransmitters work at lightning speed and before you can blink or put a filter on the mouth there the word sits out in the open air for all to hear. I admire people who are able to always have a filter and know when to keep quiet. I keep working on that skill, though in my older age I’m tempted to give up and say whatever I want, which I’ve never found to be particularly helpful to my cause, no matter what age.

On social media, many people feel free to show every bit of anger in the form of name-calling and expletives. Instead of taking a few minutes thinking about what they are writing, they act like it is a face to face verbal battle in which they have to fire back a response at lightning speed no matter the quality of the response. Unfortunately, one of our current role models, a person who is supposed to perform the job with dignity and wisdom, the person who holds the highest political office in the United States of America, is the biggest offender and violator of Civil Discourse. We must not take our cues from him.

I like to practice Civil Discourse when I use social media. It’s hard, but it’s not hard. It’s OK to take a minute (or more) to think before you write. In fact, you may gain respect for your thoughtful and kind use of words. I’m still practicing, still polishing that rough diamond.

For your edification and amusement I use only a few rules for Civil Discourse 101, which is to say what we say and how we say it:

1. No expletives. Even when it is part of making a point it’s distracting.
2. No name-calling, or labels of any kind used in a purposely divisive way.
3. Total inclusion for all people regardless of difference.
4. Apply extra caution if you decide to express anger or frustration.
5. Every one of us has our own story of hurt and hardship in this life. Choose kindness whenever you can.

I could go on, but the I like the KIS (keep it simple) principle as well. I’m good at mucking stuff up with saying too much instead of saying the right enough stuff. It’s easier to keep a few guidelines in mind than a long list of rules. I could also go on with lengthy explanations of why these rules are important, but if you are taking some of your precious time to read this post, I’d like you to think about your own explanations why these rules should apply to how we talk to each other.

I’m not the best role model, but I’m a great advocate. I pop off f-bombs with the best of them, usually in the privacy of my own car, and hopefully with the windows rolled up. Everybody needs to vent at sometime or another, but social media might not be the safest place to do so because people shoot back. Responders don’t have to look you in the eye and tell you what for, their anger and biases can be hidden behind an electronic format. I have an easy personal policy, I don’t respond to stuff that’s divisive, or I delete it. I been accused of just deleting stuff because I don’t like what they say and if it’s on my page, that’s my right. I don’t have to justify anything I post on my own page, but you don’t have the right to make my page ugly, or violent. I have enough restraint to not post that kind of stuff (note: I didn’t say crap or garbage. See? Word choice. “Stuff” isn’t definitive, and there’s that.) on your page. Sometimes it means using many more words, sometimes it’s OK to take the long road.

Are you writing? Do you write letters to your local newspaper editor or your local state or federal representative? Do you respond to e-mails, texts, or social media posts? Choose kindness. Express yourself and use your words well and carefully.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – August golden porch at Knight Hall, the university’s haunted Admission’s Office. A neighbor grows lovely dahlias, here’s one in pink. Another dahlia with pale yellow petals and peach colored tips. I still have not identified this amazing magenta wonder. I wonder what it is. A light purple cosmos.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Post (2017, rated PG – 13) with Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, one of the first women to own a major newspaper, and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, her executive editor, and pertains to their decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1973. During that time I was busy learning to be adult, how to work full time, pay bills, keep house, party occasionally, and politics was a peripheral notion. I knew Nixon made a mess and was impeached. I knew Vietnam was deplorable. I appreciated looking back on what happened then from the perspective of more than four decades of adult experience with which to evaluate the information. I take movies with salt because I know how to use theatrical license, and this Spielberg production was made to feel as if it was happening in real time. I was so intrigued I watched the movie twice and if it wasn’t waiting in a queue at my local lending library, I’d have likely watched it again. * Kicking Bird (2005, not rated) is a Kelley Baker film, made here in Portland, Oregon, about dysfunctional families, and one boy, Bird, who runs as a way to get away from all the stress. He is discovered by a coach, who grooms him for college and a track scholarship, only for Bird to discover the coach to using him to get a job. Bird stands up to the coach and increases his self-confidence. An independent film (read: no big Hollywood money), with a well written story, well presented. Being filmed in Portland, my home town, I also had the fun of trying to recognize local landmarks and streets. Recommended. * Season 4 of Dr Kildare (1961 – 1966, TV series, not rated) made its way back to my DVD player and I get to spend the end of summer with him. My least favorite repeated phrase in the series is “We did everything we could.” For some reason that phrase makes me want to scream and argue; I must look for the deep underlying causes of distress this phrase raises in me.

Currently Reading – I finished The House on Pooh Corner (1928, juvenile fiction) this week and I haven’t stopped crying. It’s been a while since a novel did that to me. The word poignant is a such an odd sounding word, but it is the word that comes to my mind about the feeling I have after reading the end of the last chapter. So, * spoiler alert * in the final chapter Christopher Robin recognizes he is growing up and tries to share with his friend Winnie-the-Pooh, a Bear of Little Brain, in the way growing up people and Bears of Little Brains do, where everything is not quite said but everything is said. I’m still crying. If I was an actor, I would have only to read this chapter before a crying scene, and I’d be right there. Now I’m glad I didn’t read this to the son when he was small, because I would have been blubbering and crying out the last few paragraphs. * And I finished Raising Trump (2017, autobiography) by Ivana Trump. I don’t begrudge her the fact she maintains how hard her life was being a working mom; she did work hard, but she had a vast array of advantages and opportunities not available to most average Americans. I also don’t begrudge her bragging about how well she has aged, good for her, though I’m lying, I do begrudge her, I do, because she has a vast array of advantages and opportunities (the best food money can buy, servants to do the household work, highest quality health care, few financial worries, access to personal trainers and exercise equipment, restful and relaxing vacation time) not available to the average working person in America. But it’s not up to me or anyone else to make that value judgment on her. She gets to live with herself, as I do with myself.

This week I have been grateful for:

    • Missing the dime sized spider that ran across my carpet the first time and surprising him with a prompt dispatch when he dared the great escape across the carpet the second time.
    • The fat blue jay who enjoyed the bird bath hubster set up who called and called for his family though they never showed up to share the bath.
    • The smoke clearing from our area so I could go out and do some errands and breathe at the same time.
    • Surviving a short grocery store run where it seemed like every car had a demented driver.
    • Changing a few settings on my new washer to get rid of an awful smell my clothes were having even after being washed. Now they smell clean when done.
    • Not filling my newly cleaned “pathway”.
    • Getting another box emptied out of the living room.
    • Getting the car registered for another two years. Sad about the hit on my budget.
    • Talking politics in the pool with my eighty-wonderful-year-old gal pal.
    • Talking education and voting with the young lifeguards at my pool.
    • How much I learn listening to young people.
    • Hearing the children in my neighborhood playing outside in the evening in the last throes of summer.
    • Hearing the neighbor turn up “We Are The Champions” and all her kids yelling/singing along at the top of their lungs.
    • The confidence of youth.
    • I am a happy girl with doors and windows open and a soft fresh breeze blowing across my skin.
    • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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