I didn’t sleep the night of Tuesday, November 8. On Tuesday afternoon, I went to vote, so sure of the election result, so certain I understood my country and its people. By midnight on Tuesday, the results had me sad, confused and existentially afraid. I was afraid for the future of my planet. Committed to environmental protection and solutions to climate change, I was suddenly hopeless and overwhelmed. How can the earth withstand neglect when she is already at risk from wounds? How can the earth withstand more plunder? And what do we do about the thoughtless hate that seems released on the country and world?
I had been living in an echo-chamber. In my immediate family, in my social circles,on my Facebook page, we all voted the same way. We had diverse backgrounds, but we shared news sources, and we shared beliefs. On Tuesday night, I watched as Facebook friends unfriended people who voted differently. I saw posts of frustration, disillusion, anger, commitment to violence, name calling. I turned off all my media.
When I pulled my sleepless but electric body from the bed on Wednesday morning, I did so with this idea: I will commit myself to kindness and courage. I will check every decision I make for kindness and courage.
I made a decision to call my sister, to FaceTime her, to see her face and listen to her talk. We had essentially been estranged. We have different interests. We work together for the good of our parents, but we don’s speak regularly. We don’t share common friends or interests. I knew here husband supported Trump in the election. I assumed she did, but I never engaged her on the topic. I never talked politics with her. Honestly: I didn’t want the aggravation. I thought it would be better not to interact with her on the subject of politics.
But on Wednesday, November 9, I wanted to understand. I wanted to understand and see the world. I didn’t want my relationships to be mediated or manipulated. I wanted to interact with my neighbors, the storekeepers— and with my estranged family.
My sister kindly agreed to a face-time meeting with me. I asked her how she was feeling and what she was thinking about the election. She told me. She told me things I didn’t know about her feelings and perspectives. I sat still and watched her face and listened and understood what she was saying. Some things she said made my face fill up with blood and my heart rate elevate, but I sat and listened. Then I blubbered and ranted, and she sat and listened to me. We didn’t try to change one another’s minds. We had nothing to convince each other of. We just listened to one another.
It was transformative. Now I knew the perspective of another person outside my circle of progressive writers and environmentalists. I heard her, and I understand what she said. I could think of her voice when my friends talked about their fears and values.
We decided to codify a way for others to listen to each other. It seems there is a real need for Americans of different political views to tell their stories.
This is a listening project. This is a project rooted in story telling.
There is no political agenda to this project. We do not encourage arguing. We believe facts and opinions have lost their currency in communication.
We invite you to find an American with different opinions from your own. We invite you to listen to that person. And, if possible, ask the person to listen to you.