when silence is not golden

Dialogue respects diversity and never demands uniformity of thought. At it’s best, dialogue is a lively interchange of ideas, opening our minds and hearts to new thoughts. Our ideological perspective is tested, perhaps nudging us to tentatively turn a few degrees to the right or left of long-held assumptions.

Silence is an important part of dialogue. Silence is a gift of conversational space, given to the other so thoughts may be shared without interruption. Silence also allows us to listen well, in order to speak well.

For me, a good dialogue is energizing. Aggressive, verbal sparring, on the other hand, leaves me drained and depressed. My modus operandi in the face of confrontation is to shut up and shut down.

I’ve learned to stay clear from online bullies and trolls. (Ok, it’s easy to avoid both when you haven’t been writing much!) We can’t always avoid the everyday, conversational bullies. What if we aren’t given an opportunity to speak? What if we are so overwhelmed by an aggressive tone that we simply “clam up”? Is it better to be silent than to jump into what seems to be a useless argument? Is it better to simply tune out and let the person go on. And on. And on?

Silence is not always golden. Silence in the face of verbal aggression can feed the aggressor, leaving them free to boost their own ego by bullying and belittling others.

Which brings us to Donald Trump.

For Trump, it seems, silence is a useless vacuum. An empty space begging to be filled with his unique brand of stream of consciousness rants. One gets the sense that he never stops to think before he speaks, or bothers to listen to anyone but himself. He got away with it, in large part, due to the silence handed to him on a silver platter by Republican leaders scared of the consequences of not endorsing a legitimately chosen nominee.

Sr. Joan Chittister, in an article for the National Catholic Reporter titled Leadership is Lacking in this Election Cycle, addresses the dangers of this silence,

The election caravan of crude and crushing comments moved merrily along while Republican after Republican climbed meekly aboard, most of them eyes down, and, most of all, silent…Instead of “I cannot endorse that statement of Donald Trump, this kind of name-calling, that kind of ignorance,” what the country has gotten is silence from the very leaders who are supposed to be safeguarding the level of democracy in this country. There is not an elementary school teacher in this country who would have tolerated this kind of talk on the school playground, not a high-school debate coach who would have allowed such abuse from any of their teams to go on uncorrected, uncensored.

Silence, in order to ponder or listen, is golden. Silence, for a bully, is a golden opportunity.

election day pondering and prayer

The world is waiting with baited breath as our American friends cast their votes. It’s no secret who the majority of Canadians would vote for. For many of us, the choice seems so blatantly obvious. We scratch our heads in wonderment that the presidential race is so close. Nail bitingly, stomach churningly, head poundingly close. After a combined spending total of 1.7 BILLION dollars, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are basically in a dead heat.

Long after the votes are counted, issues surrounding this election will remain. The blatant economic power of the 1% who found and fund Super Pacs in hopes of safe-guarding their own financial interests. Those American Bishops who threatened candidates and the eternal souls of women and men in the pews if they did not follow their voting agenda. The exorbitant cost and abuse of time, treasure and talents expended in discerning and choosing leadership.

Perhaps the polarization of this campaign will be a wake-up call to seek real change. In the meantime, we watch and wait. And, we pray.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB offers this wonderful prayer.

Give us, O God,
leaders whose hearts are large enough
to match the breadth of our own souls
and give us souls strong enough
to follow leaders of vision and wisdom.

In seeking a leader, let us seek
more than development for ourselves–
though development we hope for–
more than security for our own land–
though security we need–
more than satisfaction for our wants–
though many things we desire.

Give us the hearts to choose the leader
who will work with other leaders
to bring safety
to the whole world.

Give us leaders
who lead this nation to virtue
without seeking to impose our kind of virtue
on the virtue of others.

read and pray more….