I have no answers right now. Only questions. And a battered, bruised, and exhausted heart. Where has functional dialogue gone? Where in the overculture has it retreated to? Can it even be rescued? Or is civil discussion dying a slow and gruesome death right before our very eyes? Our ability to dialogue seems to me to be a critically endangered phenomenon. So, what do we do now?
How do we grow together in civil society when disagreements over being, belief, and choice spirals so easily into vitriol? When parenting choices produce hate-filled diatribes that dominate media and social media? When race, gender identity & sexuality results in legally sanctioned violence and persecution? When political philosophies get you blown up? Your faith gets you shot in the head? Your nationality gets your head chopped off? Where on earth do we go from here?
Why can we not talk to those we perceive as other? Why can we not openly listen as the other speaks?
These questions plague me. I sit with them in still moments, sending them out in the hopes of hearing even the tiniest inkling of an answer. But I suspect, in many ways, in many forms, we’ve been given the answers time and time again. It’s more a matter of us taking inventory of what is already available and finally getting around to making decent use of it.
But what I see happening around me instead is that many of us- me included- are simply dropping out of the conversation entirely. We’re fried. We’re feeling more than a bit lost. Whether momentarily or (hypothetically) permanently, we’ve given up trying to engage in dialogue with other. The angriest, bitterest, most hateful, most extreme voices continue to get louder and nastier and so many of us who would speak from another perspective just cannot muster the energy to even try to re-enter the fray.
There are so many issues I wish I could figure out how to engage again successfully. But right now, I feel I just cannot face the inevitable nastiness and blatant refusal to actually LISTEN to multiple points of view that would follow from my sharing my perspective on any of them and inviting discussion to follow. I’ve lost my faith in civil discourse. I have no stomach for the lack of compassion pervading the greater dialogue.
So what comes next?
As I said, at the moment I have no answers. I have only my daily round and my daily practice to keep me anchored. I have only to keep living and loving and learning. For now, I have to live with the questions.
So this month, I choose to live these questions here in a small space of the internet that does seem to be able to facilitate some dialogue. I ask these questions here in the desperate hope that each of us who participate in this virtual community can potentially, some day, play a small part in reviving civil discourse “out there” in each of our small pieces of the physical world.
I invite you to dialogue with me here. What do you do when hate-filled diatribe burnout overwhelms you? What questions are you living into about where we go from here? How do you restore your willingness to re-start or re-enter civil discussion?
I am sure you and I have our differences. But I am also sure there is at least a sliver of common ground we could share. So, what could we create if we could peaceably share that ground long enough to truly talk with each other? How can we attempt to re-engage those who exist in the region of any spectrum opposite our own positions? How can we do this in a manner that fosters peace and at least begins to cultivate mutual understanding, if not active compromise? What can we do today to return to discussion?
Kate Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is an American expat, living in Queensland, Australia and homeschooling her children, with the world as their classroom. Before motherhood, Kate earned a Bachelor of Arts from Tulane University, while studying Economics, International Relations, & Religion. She served four years as a logistics officer in the US Army, after which, Kate became a doula and holistic birth educator. She is a regular contributor to The Sisterhood of Avalon’s online journal, The Tor Stone and is active in the Red Tent Movement. Kate volunteered in Houston as a presenter for monthly Red Tents and semi-annual women’s retreats before relocating overseas. In Australia, she hosts seasonal women’s gatherings, facilitates labyrinth rituals, and is in the process of establishing a Sisterhood of Avalon Novice Hearth.