YOUNG VOICES: Learning to listen would improve society

2012-12-17T00:00:00Z YOUNG VOICES: Learning to listen would improve societyBy Micheala Sosby nwitimes.com
December 17, 2012 12:00 am  • 

I think lately America has slipped into some kind of political “funk.”

Having been a first-time voter, I was excited and anxious to dive into the American political sphere. Naively, I expected to be able to civilly discuss with my peers the platforms of the candidates that were to appear on my ballot. Rather than a civil and thought-provoking discussion, though, what I got was a barrage of personal attacks and biting political scorn. Soon enough, I was hesitant to share any of my thoughts with anyone, regardless of what end of the political spectrum they fell on.

And that’s a shame. This same situation seems prevalent among nearly anyone who tries to discuss political matters with someone who disagrees. Americans tend to be pretty lousy listeners sometimes.

We see evidence of it every day – Republicans and Democrats won’t work together in Congress, media coverage is continually molded to a particular party, and Americans in Northwest Indiana and elsewhere refuse to civilly talk about government.

To me, it seems ironic and rather counterproductive that people in the “land of the free,” where freedom of expression reigns, should be such poor listeners. America is rich in unique thinkers, but what good are good ideas if none of us have ears that are willing to listen?

In America we have the right to disagree. However, that’s not to say that we are entitled to avoid compromise at all costs, which lately seems to be our solution of choice when conflict arises anywhere.

I was happy to see Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie collaborating with President Barack Obama toward Hurricane Sandy relief, but I wasn't necessarily impressed. It’s a little ridiculous to me that the only time it’s deemed acceptable to cross party lines is in the midst of a devastating natural disaster.

What I don’t understand is why this sort of cooperation isn't the norm – in congressional hearings, in presidential policies, in our daily interactions and conversations. Call me an idealist, call me naive  even, but sooner or later we won’t be able to keep putting in our ear plugs every time we face disagreement.

Cooperation just makes sense. If there continues to be such a stigma to crossing party lines then we can all just toss all hopes for efficiency in government out the window and into a heap of partisan drama.

We need our leaders to be good listeners. But we can hardly expect them to listen to each other if we cannot listen to our own neighbors.

If we can simply practice good listening, the very social and political climates of this country will dramatically change for the better. All I’m asking for is a little teamwork.

Micheala Sosby of Portage is a senior at Chesterton High School. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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