I was stuck in famous Seattle traffic when I caught myself staring at one of those “Wag More, Bark Less” bumper stickers. Pausing briefly here and there to creep forward a few feet, I found myself arguing with the sticker in my head.
It wasn’t the “Wag More” part that caught in my craw, it was the “Bark Less”.
Isn’t the problem with our modern discourse that we don’t bark enough?
I don’t mean that we should shout or yell – that would be snarling or growing in canine vernacular – I mean that we don’t make our voices heard, we don’t bark with our fellow members of humanity. We don’t exchange thoughtful ideas or hold a discussion deeper than the oily film that coats this asphalt I’m driving on.
Rarely do we chip away at the hard surface of an issue to reveal the substantive foundation. Instead of holding discussions on pivotal issues like our eroding food system, the Keystone Pipeline or more locally, the degradation of your nearby school, we chit-chat about reality TV and Football (sorry Seahawks Fans, but enough already!)
Now, if ever before, is the time to resurrect the practice of intelligent discourse amongst our family and friends. The right to free speech isn’t just a right, but a responsibility and a call to action for all of us.
This doesn’t mean that you have to agree and fall in line with your circle of family and friends – or them with you. But isn’t that the point? We don’t all agree. We debate, we share, we might even argue. That’s fine. That’s how this country was started. That’s how change happens.
I remember a short ten years ago discussing organic food with one of my friends. She looked at me, dead straight in the eye, and flatly asked “do you really think an organic apple is any different than any other apple at the grocery store?” Her tone was confrontational. Her premise was that I was a silly, gullible environmentalist allowing fear to drive me to spend more money on food than necessary. Instead of allowing my discomfort to force me to back down, I held my ground. Now, she eats almost as much organic as I do. I like to think that I had a hand in her change of heart.
So instead of “banning” the topic of politics and social issues from family gatherings and dinner with friends, encourage it. Approach it with an open heart and sincere intent. Listen to others, especially those that don’t agree with you, and ask a lot of why questions – of others and yourself.
Want some inspiration? Look to cultural icons such as Thoreau, Emerson and more contemporarily, Berry. They often spoke out against popular opinion, but nevertheless didn’t hesitate to express their ideals.
My husband recently shared with me an old video of Wendell Berry speaking at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA about The Culture of Agriculture. Even though the video is from July 1st, 1974, the issues Berry brings up are surprisingly relevant today. The quality of this video isn’t very good, but it’s worth listening to if you want some inspiration.
So take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and bark…er…speak your opinions to those around you.
Photo Credit: A Farmers Fall Colors Begin. TumblingRun. Licensed under creative commons license 2.0