Sunday, September 5, 2010

Eavesdropping on the tea party

The other day I was introduced to an elderly man as a Filipina who has written books. The man's response was Oh, like Michelle Malkin.  An uncomfortable pause ensued. Since then I've been mulling how to reach across the aisle and really learn how to talk to folks who are on the opposite of the political spectrum from me. So yesterday I spent a few hours watching youtube videos on the Tea Party folks to listen to what they are saying.

Perhaps this guy simply wants to expose the TP folks as naive and misinformed. I want, however, to try to empathize with their fears and anxieties and understand where it comes from. Even my favorite white anti-racist voice, Tim Wise, disappoints when he reverts to name calling and labeling. I agree with his analysis and his challenge to white folks but sometimes I just feel that name calling and shouting matches don't really accomplish anything.

I suspect that some of my Filipino friends are conservative. I say suspect because we never really talk about national politics in the U.S. I also don't talk politics with the conservative folks in my family. But in our effort to keep the peace by not talking about our differences, do we not also waste the opportunity to dialogue, to find common ground, to develop empathy? Metta - compassion, kindness, generosity.

What is the common ground of conservative and liberal views? If we cannot get beyond the polarizing rhetoric, how can we begin to hear each other? George Lakoff wants us to understand how we think metaphorically as a way to hear what the other side is saying. Do we know what metaphors we are using to frame our positions? Our frames shape our understanding of the world. Yet we rarely make our frames visible, we often simply assume that they are shared.

How then to talk about world views? What is the world view behind the talk about "family values" and "restoring honor to America?" I think it is good to ask each other this question: what is your world view and how and where did you learn it? Perhaps therein lies the moment for dialogue.

Let's begin.

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