I started listening to another lecture series last week, this one on essay writing. And within the first two lectures, the professor had already rubbed me the wrong way. She spoke about a trip she took where she deliberately did not take a camera with her, because she wished to experience her destination using all of her senses rather than focusing it through the framework of a lens. While this is a position I can respect, the way she referred to photography as the editing of the world to show only what the photographer wants the audience to see is not how I personally go about my photo trips. And it set me off for a while. (I view my own photography as an art in showing the viewer what they may have missed or ignored during their own visit to various natural areas, and as such, I see it as broadening the world rather than editing it via image cropping.) I really wanted to stop listening to the lecture series after that second lesson, but I have decided to continue on to see what else the professor has to offer that may prove useful to me.
I will listen, although I disagree.
I believe this is a position that more people need to take in their lives, especially when there is such division in the world. Protests in Portland, OR have seen violence over the past weekend. People are frustrated with those in power, because they find their voices are not being heard. The United States has become polarized to the point where opposing sides can no longer talk to each other with civility. They dehumanize each other and as a result, isolate individuals who never would have become part of the problems they rally against. These are the voices that need to be heard. These are the peaceful members of society that get caught in the crossfire.
The child of illegal immigrants.
The young son of a city police officer.
Dairy farmers struggling to cover their expenses.
Pipe welders working thousands of miles from home to build new natural gas pipelines.
A young POC woman stuck in a broken education system but wanting to go to college.
A teenage boy being told his masculinity is toxic before he’s figured out who he is as an individual.
A white veteran being told he’s racist for showing patriotism.
These and so many others are the protagonists of the stories that need to be told right now. For every enemy either side of a debate creates for itself, there is always an innocent person who will be misidentified and mislabeled. And as long as no one is willing to shut up and listen to their opponents, they will continue to dehumanize them and escalate their disagreements to ridiculous extremes.
The first step in learning to work out our differences is to stop making assumptions about another’s viewpoint before we’ve heard it in full. That’s why I am choosing to listen to that entire lecture series I mentioned at the start of this post. Although the professor offended me with her viewpoint on photographers, I want to know more about how she works as a writer. She may offer me a new way to look at my own writing process that will prove useful.
Being able to approach small offenses like this one with an open mind will make handling more extreme oppositions easier after some practice. And maybe once we learn to listen to others whom we assume we disagree with ideologically, maybe we’ll realize that they are human and that there is common ground between us. Until then, the divide between the sides of any debate will continue to grow.