Listening with a megaphone

Not long ago, my family and I walked to our car after seeing a concert.  There was a man with a megaphone protesting the performer as well as the internationally known company with which the musician was associated.  Megaphone guy shouted protests and that parents and children were being deceived by the performer.  His face was red and creased with frowns and he seemed out of breath from shouting.  His voice was cracking too.  He announced that parents should be ashamed for purchasing a ticket, and allowing our kids to listen to the music.  Our birds, (14 and 12) and feeling a little intimidated, moved closer to my husband and me as we crossed the street to the parking deck.

When we were in our car, I wondered if our children would say anything about what they heard or ask questions about what the man said.  Without any hesitation, my youngest softly says, "Why doesn't that man like **ARTIST**?"

 Photo credit - Hyperallergic Listening to Nature

Photo credit - Hyperallergic Listening to Nature

My 14 year old answered her before I could, "I don't think he's saying he doesn't like **ARTIST** I just think he doesn't like the company the **ARTIST** works for."

I let that rest a minute to see if anything else would be said and to determine if I needed to offer anything else.  My son spoke again.  "What I don't get is why that guy is trying to make people feel bad about going to a concert that they've already spent the money on and the show is already over.  I mean, does he really believe that people are going to hear him and say, *"Wow, dude you are so right!  I shouldn't listen to this music anymore."* People already believe what they want to believe, I don't think a guy with a horn is going to change anyone's mind."

I wasn't sure if I was proud of my son's statement or sad that his world is already jaded.  Did he believe that once you support something, you could never support something else?  Or was he suggesting that most people figure out on their own what is good and bad and other's people's opinions are irrelevant?

The concert and megaphone experience was a catalyst for a great discussion on the drive home.  What my family worked out is not necessarily what your family would but it was a wonderful and insightful teaching moment.  The children gave us a view of their world and my husband and I offered them words of life experience to consider.

One observation we drew from the megaphone guy is the comparison between real life and the viral version of people on social media shouting their position on almost every issue.  Do we ALL have a horn and no invisibility cloak?  We have the switch turned ON that says *notice me* and we never turn OFF?  Do we shout and not listen?  Have we become virtual protesters?  Do we believe stating our opinions through posts, tweets and pictures will somehow influence others to feel the *exact same way* we do?  How does waving our position like a banner but burning another's flag give any credibility to our cause? Has this  become the social media norm?  If we were having a spirited discussion with friends over dinner would we insult their beliefs and fling a dish of green beans at them? God, I hope not.  Generations before us had disagreements with their friends and co-workers but I'm not sure they lost friendships over it.  They politely agreed to disagree and passed the potatoes.

About a month ago, my heart broke as I watched two friends and their 20 year relationship unravel online.  The friends, (and friends of friends) had court side seats to the bashing they gave one another.  I read post after heartbreaking post - threads of their relationship being ripped apart over their disagreement about gun control.  Neither one of them would have come to blows in person - but their virtual words online were cruel and insensitive.  I kept reading and checking back to see if any part of their argument would lead them back to one another on mutual terms and common ground but undoubtedly the disagreement became fully involved until one "blocked" the other and touted it to the friends who had been ringside.  It troubled me.  These two had been through births and deaths, marriages and baptisms, beach trips and anniversaries.  How could the issue of gun control disarm two decades of friendship?

Remember that song - Politics, Religion and Her by Sammy Kershaw?  The song suggests that those three topics should be left alone.  But social media thumps it's chest and bangs it's drums so you'll choose your side. There's pressure to say who you support politically, and what side do you stand on for abortion, gay rights or gun control.  The ones who choose to say nothing and post pics of their grandkids are safe from accusation until one of the kids wears a rainbow shirt or stands in front of a gun show sign.  People will sum you up, decide which side you're on and whether or not your religion is tolerable.

We need to settle down and believe what we believe without judging others or we'll only be left with crazy cat videos.  I don't know about you but I love seeing where friends vacation, what they had for dinner or when they're cheering for their favorite team.

We'll only see what we want to see because we've blocked anything offensive to us.  And how many people have blocked *us* because we were offensive to them?  Maybe you don't care, but isolation can't be the answer.  Surrounding yourself with only people who agree with you can't be the solution.  We were put on this earth to interact with others  - not group ourselves into likes and dislikes.  How are we supposed to get along with one another if we aren't willing to stretch our faith and compassion?

We all need to choose the tough road.  We are more than gun control, gay rights, animal rights, women's rights, religion and politics.  Maybe it's time to put down our megaphones and turn up our hearing aids. Lean in to hear others rather than ourselves or those we with whom we agree. If we're always shouting, we might miss a valuable whisper.

 

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Proverbs 15.1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.