Posted by: MC | January 26, 2012

SC to FLA – Why Read the 100 VOICES Blogs on the Primaries??

It looked like a done deal to lots of folks who are paid to make authoritative calls on such things.  Chances were slim, they said a week ago, that Gingrich, Perry or Santorum could stage a comeback in the

South Carolina primary that took place last Saturday.  It’s heard of, but none of those campaigns appeared anywhere near as strong as Romney’s given the current playing field with its corporations=people, money=free speech rulebook.

Enter Gingrich’s Super Pac (remember the rulebook?).  Mega money and mega mean.  But that’s entertainment these days.  And enough people in South Carolina took as evidence of leadership whatever meanness could come forth from the podium and over the airwaves.  Newt Gingrich took the numbers on Saturday and the pundits and commentators in their ultimately astonishing capacity to wing it are at no loss for sound bites and spin in the name of political analysis.

So, of the hundreds of thousands of people pumping observations on the electoral caucuses into the media ocean, why read these 100 VOICES blogs?  Really?  What possibly could shed light on or even elevate these times and their conversations.

Maybe this.  It is terribly easy to follow the seduction of cynical opposition. “I’m the good one here, because you’re a jerk.”   The vying for moral ground in a discussion with little value or relevance has easy entertainment value because that’s a fundamental dialectic in which most of are engaged way more often than we’d like to see or certainly admit.

Two days after the SC Caucus, the Monday NYT lead headline read, “Gingrich and Romney Trade Jabs as G.O.P. Race Rolls On.”  Romney accuses Gingrich of being capricious, incapable of showing the stability needed for leadership.  Gingrich, who seems way better at the look-at-the-waste-of-a-human-being-I’m-opposing-and-pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain game went for Romney’s tax returns, and has now turned to his erasing all documentation of his 2009 positions on health care policy.  Romney has wealth and access.  So does Gingrich (maybe a little less wealth).  Both have demonstrated capacity to use people for their own material and personal gain.  Both may have seriously strong and well-reasoned ideas on meeting the actual circumstances facing our country and its people, but we can’t know what those ideas are because there is not time, and perhaps little desire, for them to come forward.

We of the reality show decade appear to love the dirt on other folks.  People who can talk smack about other people stand as our models in most popular arenas.  Whether the vitriol is reasoned or unreasoned, we the viewing and buying public (i.e., the ones who respond to the advertisements accompanying the mud slinging) seem unable to curb our appetites for this fast food of civic discourse.

I’ve been reading this stuff.  I can even amp up my own sarcastic and cutting edge – prose with a critical bite that can only be generated from a sense, not only of a better way but of a better way that, of course, only the better people (i.e., people like me) take.

This is the problem.  This is why read (and write) this blog.  We’ve got to think closely about this.   Together.  And with our hearts.

While we’re distracted into this iteration of immature adults playing who’s-the-bad-assest-cool-kid real challenges to our communities persist.  Our neighbors are still without jobs and homes leaving too many of the children in our country going to school distracted by extreme uncertainty they can’t help but pick up at home.  We continue using manufacturing and transportation that seriously advances the damage to our water and air.  Every day, too many people are going without health care.  Too many people are leaving school or getting lousy educations.  Too many people are going to prison.

The litany of social ills can also easily become part of the game.  List the problems, blame rich people and corporations, and be done with it.  I mean, isn’t complaining doing something?  Where’s my smart phone?  And, by the way, even though the Democrats aren’t doing the primaries this time around, they are no less overtaken by the pettiness than anyone else.

The 100 Americans who speak in 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change, were already saying “STOP THIS!” way back in 2009.  When I met Kim Wade (Voice 047) in a coffee shop in Jackson, MS, he spoke of a group that would be meeting the next week to come up with nonviolent ways of seriously influencing the mid-term elections.  Mr. Wade, an African American talk radio host none too pleased with the election of Mr. Obama, shared the opinion of many of the 100 Voices that the leadership of this country must come back to the best interest of the people.  As long as the combat was going on, Mr. Wade would not soften the bully pulpit of his conservative talk show, but most of the other voices along the way were ready to try listening.

That was 2009.  It’s three years later now.  We’ve had the formation of the Tea Party, the then unnamed group to which Mr. Wade alluded, and we’ve had the emergence of the Occupy movement.  Both of these assertions of democratic voice call for change in government.  With organization and demonstration, with use of social media and public discourse (especially the mic check and general assembly work of the Occupy groups) these citizens are going beyond complaining to taking actual action.  They are articulating both concerns and solutions.

Certainly, we are still divided.  We still allow ourselves to write others off pretty quickly once we get a sense they’re “one of them.”  For me it’s difficult to tell if here in 2012 we’re less ready to listen, or perhaps more ready.  We may be more ready because we are increasingly frustrated with the alternative we default to again and again.  In its most extreme and destructive version it goes like this – I’m right, you’re wrong.  I live, you die.

We and our ancestors before us have run this kind of thinking for a long time.  Why even hold out the possibility of anything more harmonious?

For one reason – the quiet wisdom and willingness to drop agendas in service to real community solutions that showed up in the 100 Voices.  I was not all together surprised to find such wisdom, but I was amazed by its consistency.  We are far wiser and more ready for cooperation than we are led to believe.

Another reason – Well, it’s the reason to stick with this blog, to read this book, to have your own conversations, to practice listening, speaking and acting together across differences.  We tend only to notice the bad news, the bad behavior, the flaws and faults.  It is not bad to see what’s wrong and work to fix it, but it is a giant problem when there is never any sustained and encouraging attention paid to what’s working.

All those eons of human cruelty to humans (and animals and the land…), included what were likely way more instances of human kindness and creativity.  Wise leadership has come from countless nameless women and men across all human time.  It has come from our saints and sages as well, but they are very few in number.

We continue, not because of the destruction and pettiness we perpetrate, but because of the kindness – because of the heart.

Like I say to my students and have written before here, Don’t believe me.  You must check all of this out for yourself.  As you do, watch how quickly you can go (I can, too) to the posture of the primary candidates here on the doorstep of Florida – the “I’m the good one here, because you’re a jerk” posture.  When you next encounter someone you want immediately to write off, just listen and watch and see if there are more points of absolute counter values, or more spaces of shared interest and concern.

You won’t hear that suggestion in the run up to next week’s vote in Florida, but based on the Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and European Americans – rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, able-bodied, and people living with disabilities making up the 100 Voices, we’re more than ready to give it a try.

We have the capacity.  We need the courage and confidence and, it seems to me, we need each other.

Sounds like democracy.


  1. As I lived with my thoughts of this today, I found how much my desires to be part of this compassion, this deep listening, mirror the slow process of listening to all the voices within myself. Host and author to all of them, it seems I find peace only when I accept them all simultaneously and without judgment. Would that I could cultivate that more private experience in community soil.

  2. Remember Marshall McLuhan – “The Medium is the Message?” We’re there. But it was T.S. Eliot who ended “The Hollow Men” with the words, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” we’re not there yet. Let’s keep listening to each other and maybe the voices will begin to focus. right now it’s a cacophony. I like your style.

    • 1.So great Mary you are off and running. Your statement “the time is now to join us in the radical act of listening” blew my mind!
      2. Bill, so great to read and hear from you via this hi-tech facebook medium, we await Mary’s invasion of Kerrville, Mo-Ranch and Schreiner University with joyful expectations as usual. Peace, Stan Cobbs et al

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