When you yell, we can’t hear you.

A construction guy has been doing a little work for me. The first thing I discovered about him when he arrived is that he is a proud Republican. Similarly, the first thing he discovered about me when he arrived is that I’m a proud Democrat. Hilarity ensued, and continues.

We’ve been giving each other good-natured ribbings constantly, all in good humor. He turns up the volume of Rush Limbaugh on his truck radio extra-loud, to make sure I have to listen to it. At one point I begged him to locate an old “McCain-Palin” yard sign, so I could put it in another friend’s yard as a practical joke. He said he was going to watch Sean Hannity on a fellow Democrat’s TV, just to see if the TV would break.

It’s all in good humor, and very respectful. He believes what he believes, and so do I. Neither of us is stupid; we just happen to look at the same set of facts and arrive at different conclusions sometimes. It makes neither of us evil, and doesn’t upset either of us. We haven’t concluded that the other is some sort of “inferior species” as a result of this. If anything, we’ve had more fun getting the project done, because of our differences and how we’ve handled them. None of that has required any particular effort on our part, it’s just the way we’ve handled it. It’s called “respect.”

On the other hand, there’s the recent experience of Lloyd Doggett. Apparently while I was out of town, Congressman Doggett was in town, back in the district from D.C., hosting town hall meetings to stay in touch with his constituents.

Best I can tell from talking with those who were there, the express goal of the attendees who oppose Doggett’s actions and views was not to challenge him on the issues, to express their own opposing views, or to seek understanding of his views or votes. It was simply to disrupt the meetings, and disrupt Doggett’s attempts to communicate with his constituents. In other words, to be rude. Because they have a right to be.

Far be it for me to look down my nose at civil disobedience. At times, great things have been accomplished in the history of the nation, or great evils stopped, as a result of it.

But honestly folks: chill.  Yes, you have an absolute right to get mad at what your government is doing in your name. Lord knows my peeps spent the last eight years seething, back when Molly Ivins urged us to bang the pots and pans. But just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. Didn’t the Supreme Court also say you have the right to burn the American Flag in protest? Have you burned one lately? Me either. I bet the reason you haven’t (aside from the fact that you love the flag) is because it is in terribly poor taste and you see it as being very wrong. That’s a judgment call – to not to exercise a right, even though you can. And at the heart of your decision is probably your conclusion that you won’t do it, because it won’t work.

Here’s another judgment call worth considering: just make your case. Calmly. In a considered thoughtful way. And in your effort to communicate your views, don’t drown out competing views. You can even be heated and angry when you do it. You can, that is, if you have an actual case to make. If you’re merely whining because your team lost the election, well that’s a different story. You’re not just whining, are you?

Like my construction guy does, I believe what I believe. But on these matters, I also try to remember what a friend once said to me:

No matter how much you believe your position to be well thought-out, and fundamentally true, there’s somebody somewhere who is just as smart as you, who believes the opposite thing.

I would like to think the events of the weekend had a constructive purpose, although I suspect it had more to do with some conservative organization building its membership and enthusiasm than it did in communicating any ideas to those who might not agree. If you were part of that, very sincerely registering your frustration, please consider the likelihood that you’ve been duped, by those who urged you to behave that way.

Meanwhile, if you have ideas, maybe next time you’ll consider sharing them, in a way they can be considered. And while you’re sharing them, it might work better if you don’t treat the folks you’re sharing with as if they’re stupid for disagreeing with you. How well did it work out last time somebody treated you that way?

I’d totally listen to my construction guy’s ideas. Even if he didn’t find that yard sign for me.



4 Responses to When you yell, we can’t hear you.

  1. Joe August 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm #

    Well said. And here’s the lobbyists and special interests that are exploiting those protesters –


  2. Shanerrific August 3, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

    Very well put, Mr. Cook.

  3. Anonymous August 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    Just had to endure 30 minutes of Fox news at the Doctor’s office…nice to come home and read your request for everyone to chill, Fox should try it…Walter H.

  4. whiskeydent August 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm #

    To hell with all this kum-by-yah crap; it’s just not that entertaining.

    The same friend who told you about smart guys reaching different conclusions is also prone to saying this: “They need a good yard-f***ing.”

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