If You Can ‘Huh’ You Can Hear

 
Monday came quick, right? Some folks may still be off and that’s just fine. I hope you feel as lucky as you are. For the rest of us, we’re back on it and the demands feel heavy, I bet.
 
My inbox… ewww.
 
I felt the urge to charge into everything and do all the stuff I have in my mind all at once. But uhhh… nah. It doesn’t all need to be done at once. It does need to be done right though. For me to do it right, I need to get right.
 
So I tune out.
 
Breathe in, breathe out. Let that sound in. Just focus on that.
 
With the rhythm of your breath as a four four time, cut time, waltz… check in.
 
Do you hurt physically? Where is your body in this moment? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
 
Do you hurt mentally? What is on your mind? How are your thoughts organized? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
 
Do you hurt spiritually? How are you taking care of your spirit? What is on your soul? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
 
Have you slept recently? If not, sometimes answers can be found in our dreams and rest. Rest if you can.
 
Have you eaten recently? If not, sometimes answers can be found in the solace of a nourished belly. Eat well, sitting down and focused on your food, if you can.
 
Have you had a glass of water? If not, sometimes answers can be found in this basic liquid. Drink a decent amount of water (I’d go with a pint this week, if you can handle it) and feel the feeling of it going down. This one is a little non-negotiable.
 
Check in again and if all is well, take care to let the world in at your pace. Remember yourself. Get right.
 
 
A while ago I wrote a pretty bitter post about some time I spent in Atlanta while a small band of young people fought white supremacists in Charlottesville. But something else happened there that has sat with me this weekend and will follow me into 2018.
 
During the Q and A, our panel got a question on political education. A young white guy stood up and said that he’s tried to tell people about the numerous atrocities committed by the United States ad wondered if he wasn’t saying the right thing. His description of the interactions were really difficult for me to fully understand because the people were so monochromatic and detached from him. Another disaffected white dude shouted agreement with him.
 
“No one listens to us!”
 
Another panelist pointed out that the starting point for these discussions is important. The young man who asked the question, for example, was trying to tell people about the US role in Latin America and while what has happened is important, it might not be the best angle of approach. He posited that maybe the answer to getting someone to listen is to do some listening.
 
They didn’t hear it, I recall. I felt bad for them as I knew it was only going to get worse.
 
Sometimes I do interviews or talk to media people and they talk about the labor movement in this really strange way similar to the way the young man talked about the people he was trying to influence. I used to think it was because they didn’t like decisions made by union leadership or the bizarre way labor is forced to interact with the economy. But this last year has really educated me as to the central reason why he and they struggle with you, me and us.
 
I want to talk about imperialism all the time. I want to rail about Nigeria (I mean wtf) and Yemen (OMFG) and Palestine (holy shit) but I also recognize that I can’t start where I want to start because I want other participants in the conversation. If I want to talk to anyone, I need to recognize where they are because I want something from them. Truthfully, no one is out there looking for my hot take on anything and that’s true for most of us (laugh if you want but it is true.) All this “educating” is really just “signifying” otherwise and no one has time for that shit. I’d say its especially important now but fuck that… we should have been listening a long time ago.
 
Folks in the labor movement, in the classroom, on the street or anywhere else want to hear all kinds of things from us. But they’d love it if we at least pretended like we care what they think. They’d love it if we stretched a little and showed some concern for their lives and their ears. They’d love it if we at least listened to them for a while before we opened our mouths after rolling our eyes at the thing they said that we think is uninformed, dumb, bizarre… And before you get all upset, I’m saying “we” because I’m watching my back (and mouth, and keyboard) on this first. It’s gonna be frustrating and more than a little slow but it’s damn sure better than fascists in the White House (again) and watching your comrades drown because of climate change.
 
Let’s do a lot of listening. We can start now but it’ll take us a while to figure out what it means to listen to each other. Let’s make 2018 the year that we heard women. Let’s make 2018 the year that we heard people of color. Let’s make 2018 the year that we heard the neurodivergent. Let’s make 2018 the year that we heard across class lines. We don’t have to like it. Let’s just listen and see what happens to what we say to someone that we’ve heard for the first time in a long time. Let’s see what their reaction is when they realize that someone actually gave a fuck about whatever they said instead of waiting for their turn to speak.
man speaking empty audience

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