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COMMUNITY VOICE

We need to really talk and not just scream so we can know each other

Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 12:01 am

Truth be told, I don't read too many opinion pages, nor do I read or participate in Facebook debates — or should I say tirades, since no one seems to be listening to each other — about politics, religion, social strata — or race. That's because it's about opinions, and everyone has one.

Waste material. That's what our voices become when the volume and pitch rises to the “screaming at you so loud I can't hear a word you're saying” level. Your voice is wasted, and so is mine.

This, however, is a selfish society. As long as I've got mine, I don't care what's left for you. If I win, and you end up emotionally, economically, physically or spiritually destitute, that's all right with me, according to the prevailing American ethos; if you win and I'm left devastated, an empty shell, well, that's just the way it is. Given that, there's apparently no one who sees the need to talk to others in a meaningful manner — at least that's what all the trash talking seems to indicate in the wake of one of these “situations.”

Consequently, nothing gets solved. We lurch through our collective life in this nation and this world in back-and-forth exchanges of verbal fisticuffs, battering each other about the soul and, at times, body, resulting in untold spiritual and physical damage. And, while there appear to be winners, truth is everyone is left with horrible scars in the wake of the battle — even the winners. Yes, they might gloat and celebrate and justify how we were “standing our ground” and say, “I told you so,” but they walk away paranoid, aware that in this endless screaming at and talking past each other, another attack is coming.

Maybe they'll win again; maybe they'll lose. Whatever the case, even the winner won't come away undamaged.

What's the old saying? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity? How would you feel if you went to the doctor sick with a treatable illness and the doctor told you, “I'm not going to try to cure you. I'm just going to give you something to feel better today, but tomorrow you'll feel just as bad and maybe even worse.”? Most of us would be talking about changing doctors, maybe even trying to sue the first as a quack.

By the same token, how could you expect even the most competent doctor to facilitate a cure if you lie about the symptoms and a medical history that might point to the root cause of the affliction? Yet, we are a nation plagued by treatable illnesses: lack of parity in the work market, decaying infrastructures, a damaged economic system, a gridlocked government with a recalcitrant attitude with regard to the people's faith in them to solve problems, a hypocritical posture of proclaiming of spiritual principles yet failing to live by them when it comes to the less fortunate in our society and, yes, deep-seated racist attitudes about which we refuse to speak openly and honestly.

As community elder Brother Omowale-Ketu Oladuwa explained after telling how he had to spit out the bitter taste of the desire for revenge that had welled up in him after hearing the Zimmerman trial verdict, “We need healing, not revenge.” The bitter taste of revenge would only serve to poison us in the future. Healing, however, will never come until we can be truthful with each other about the symptoms, cause and nature of the disease.

We talk, we scream, we lie and we refuse to listen. And, we expect things to get better? Folks, we're still fighting the same battles, arguing about the same things, refusing to honestly hear each other and acknowledge that each of us is damaged, in pain and unable to fully enjoy the gifts of life while we have to keep looking over our shoulders waiting for that “I got you!” moment from folks we should recognize as being in the same boat and ultimately as family. It ain't gon' work, folks.

That lack of really talking to each other and not just screaming is the reason Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman didn't really know each other — no, not on a personal basis but on a human level. Perhaps had they known each other, there would have been a conversation instead of a confrontation. If they had, perhaps one would still be alive and the other would not be condemned to a life of constantly waiting for an “I got you!” moment that might not and should never come.

Perhaps if more of us knew each other there would be no more unarmed Trayvon Martins dying from the bullets from the guns of George Zimmermans.

A moment of silence, please, for the next Trayvon Martin.

Michael Patterson is editor of Frost Illustrated.