By Ernie McCray
When I was a child there was a commercial about a dog named Nipper who was supposed to be listening to his “master’s voice” on a windup disc gramophone. I thought about him early one morning recently.
On this morning I woke up a little earlier than usual because my iPhone SE startled me awake, vibrating and buzzing like crazy, kind of like those European police sirens.
And, hey, I’ve got to say I didn’t know I had an app for such as all that. I shut that little device up by grabbing it like a cowboy wrestling a steer he’d just roped only to find out that its histrionics was regarding an article about a book Arizona Senator John McCain had written.
I was forced to question the very notion that I was in possession of anything approaching a smartphone.
Anyway, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and skimmed the essay while terms like “compromise“ and “Good Times” and “Just Causes” jumped out at me, written as concepts we need to “return to” as though they had ever really truly existed.
What did get my attention, though, was McCain’s thought that, as a society, we need to acknowledge “that we are more alike than different” and act like it – by listening to each other, lefties and righties, liberals and conservatives, et al.
I say amen to that because not acknowledging our commonalities as human beings has been the bane of our existence. And we’ve never ever really sincerely listened to each other across our racial and ethnic lines and our creeds and our sexual boundaries, and so on…
And when it comes to listening I don’t think McCain’s colleagues, Republicans, Tea Party people, and the like, are capable of listening and I base that on my personal experiences all these years as an “activist.”
I mean folks on the left of the political and social spectrum have been, save a Republican or two, here and there, the only ones, over time, to ever listen to me and my causes which have mostly fallen in the “let’s help everybody survive and thrive in dignity” category. I’ve never asked much.
I just haven’t met many conservatives who listen and I’ve never come up with the secret of how to get them to listen to people’s concerns and cries as they have always, it seems to me, been too much into taking than giving, taking from the poor and giving to the rich.
They have an obsession with having people, who are down on the ladder, doing a lot of “pulling”: pulling their weight or pulling themselves up by their bootstraps without any thought that the weight might be quite burdensome or that a significant portion of the population might not have boots, let alone bootstraps.
I guess it’s hard to listen when you’re busy complaining about affirmative action and “welfare queens” and “Black Lives Matter” and trying to deny people’s voting rights.
And there’s very little listening involved when a party can so easily denounce athletes who take a knee when the anthem is played rather than addressing their most sincere desire for the country to cease the practice of police officers bypassing judge and jury and shooting unarmed blacks down in the streets – an unjust American tradition that’s been going on for centuries.
And don’t get me started on their xenophobia or their strong anti-abortion stance (as though they treat children who have been born with great love) or their ridiculous fear that their guns will be taken away when apparently there’s nothing we value more in this country than the right to bear arms.
And still supporting Trump after the way he has lied to us and carried on in front of us all these months, makes a strong statement about conservative “values.” Their failure to condemn this president and send him off to Mar-a-Lago and/or prison is a huge indicator that they’re not listening to anybody in the country other than the man’s base.
It was with such thoughts that Nipper, the dog from my youth, came to my mind, causing me to fantasize that these folks could someday not only start listening but listen like he seemed to be listening back then: with his heart, as though he really wanted to understand the sounds and words that were coming through the gramophone.
That being said, if my iPhone SE ever jars me awake again with a “news alert” it would be nice if it was about how we homo sapiens had begun listening to each other’s concerns and cries, indicating that we’re finally finding ways to love and appreciate each other – because we can’t change this troubled world for the better if we don’t.