I had a very interesting conversation yesterday, but I don’t remember it all that clearly. My heart was pounding the whole time, and my mouth was kind of dry.
I was talking to a guy who really impresses me with his wit, his knowledge and his big heart. The whole time we were chatting, my brain was thinking “Oh, my God. I’m TALKING to him.”
No, this wasn’t a flashback to seventh grade. Nor was it a moment of straying from my very stable marriage. I was on a call-in radio show. With my very favorite political talk show host.
I had made the call because I was overwhelmed by a sense of frustration as I listened to the host, Pete Dominick, and his guest, whose name I honestly forget. Pete is a liberal thinking progressive (you know, like me), but his show is so wonderful because he invites people with a wide variety of views to come on and talk. This guy was a very conservative thinker, and spoke about the views of the far right. I love this show because Pete asks good questions, lets his guests speak, and doesn’t argue or challenge. But I heard this man using terms like “This is a non-negotiable point for us.” and “We are absolutely going to insist on the major changes to collective bargaining laws.” The more he spoke, the more my heart dropped.
And so I called the show. I wanted to commend Pete for his patience, thank him for giving me a chance to listen to the “other side”, but also to share my sense of outrage at the entrenched, dug-in, uncompromising stance of the right wing. To be honest, I sort of thought that my hero would agree with me!
I wasn’t sure I’d even get on (ok; I have called five or six times, been on the air once before). But after only a few minutes of waiting through a commercial, I heard Pete say, “Karen in Massachusetts”, and there I was! Speaking to Pete himself!! Yikes! Oh, my God! What do I say?!
I started to talk, and listened to my galloping heart. I told Pete how frustrated and upset I was by his guest, and by my belief that the government is in a state of total lockdown due to the absolute refusal to bend or compromise. I took a breath, waiting for him to agree.
He didn’t. Which is why I like the show so much. “Listen,” he said. “Don’t you think that those on the left have similar issues that they just can’t compromise about? Don’t you have something like that yourself, that means so much to you that you could never give an inch?”
“But, Pete!”, I insisted, “How are we ever going to make any progress, or make this country any stronger if people are so unwilling to give an inch?” Pete answered me by talking about his faith in human nature, and his faith in the American spirit. “We’ll move on the same way we always move on. American politics has always been full of passion.”
I assured him then that I DO have faith in human nature. I told him that I teach elementary school, which I believe to be the ultimate optimistic endeavor. But I believe that the US political system is broken beyond repair. His reply was that we have to embrace all views, listen to all voices, and try to find a way to come to decisions that are best for all of us. I told him that he reminded me of my children, as they talk about the Occupy movement.
Honestly, I am not sure that I share the faith of this younger man, but I let myself be calmed anyway. After all, it was my favorite radio guy on the other end of the phone. As we ended our conversation, Pete said, “Thank you for being a teacher. I always thank those who do your job.” My little crush got that much stronger.
As I thought later about my tiny moment of on-air fame, I came to realize a few things. I realized that Pete is right when he says that knowledge is power. It does no good to anyone to listen only to those who share our views.
And I realized that even though I constantly tell myself that I am open minded and moderate, I see things through the lens of my liberal views. I bristle at opinions that strike me as wrong. More importantly, as I have come to the conclusion that we have to talk to each other in order to make any progress, I must admit that we have to listen to each other, too.
So thanks, Pete Dominick, for my tiny moment of XM radio fame, and for giving me the thrill of the year. And thank-you for giving me a gentle shake to make me rethink my positions and opinions.
Now, can you please call some of my dug-in, entrenched right wing friends and relations, and give them your wisdom, too?