As I do every year, I watched President Obama’s State of the Union address last night. As it was his last, he was a bit more loose. A tad more bold. He had nothing to lose, obviously, and so he talked directly and pointedly about the issues facing our nation and the world. He spoke about immediate challenges, but also looked forward with hope and vision. And while I tend to agree with him on most policy issues, that is not the point of this particular post.
What stood out for me was a call for civility and humanity in the face of the trials we face, since we do have to face them together. By rejecting the rhetoric of fear and hate and divisiveness, we stop those poisons from spreading. Actually communicating with one another in a way that doesn’t demonize or blame, but allows us to convey ideas, hopes, and our own struggles as fellow human beings. Perhaps it is a pipe dream to think in this political climate we can have meaningful discussions with those who hold different viewpoints. And certainly from the vitriolic and cynical response from Ted Cruz and his ilk it is easy to get discouraged. One of the few truthful quotes from Governor Nikki Haley in her otherwise-misguided response was spot on.
“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.”
Whether the topic is climate change, immigration, energy, social justice, or any other of the myriad of hot-button topics, the only path to resolution is communication. Silence doesn’t cut it. Screaming doesn’t produce answers. over fifty years ago, the legendary Paul Simon wrote one of the greatest songs of all time, one that still is revered today. His musical partner for many years, Art Garfunkel summed up the song’s meaning as “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”
How’s that for prophetic?
Today, I was introduced to a cover of The Sound of Silence by the heavy metal band Disturbed. Before you run screaming away, take a listen. I think it brings a modern edge to the song without losing any of the timeless message.