Don't Raise Your Voice
I think I’ve had more conversations in my head with my father since his passing eighteen years ago than we had while he was alive. He was an educator by profession and an open minded moderate Republican, an early supporter of the rebirth of the Republican party in South Carolina in the 1950’s. We would have very heated discussions about social and political issues but he would always listen to me no matter how callow and silly some of my positions were. “Where do you get your facts?” he would often ask. Since he died there has been no one in my life with whom I can have the level of thoughtful debate and conversation we had and I sorely miss it. I’d give anything to know what he thought of the current Republican slate.
I flippantly say that I am somewhat to the right of Dennis Kucinich and my younger brother is somewhat to the left of Attilla the Hun. For years we would have heated and loud arguments over politics, at times scaring the children when they were young. “Mommy, why are Daddy and Uncle Berkeley screaming at each other.” Needless to say not a lot was accomplished. Ten years ago during a particularly rancorous argument over the war in Iraq my brother stormed out and my Mother looked at me and said, “ You will never talk politics in my house again.” And we haven’t, with the exception of the few times late in an evening when I would rise to his bait.
Until this past Thanksgiving. In my frustration at my Father’s inability to speak to me from the grave and my grave concern over the state of political discourse I have begun a radio show on our local talk radio station WCHL called I’ll Grant You That, on which I speak with folks on the other side of the aisle and hopefully come to points of agreement. In preparing for the show mentally and emotionally I realized that the cardinal rule had to be- Don’t raise your voice. Once your voice is raised all listening and indeed all thinking ceases. Emotion takes over and we are either fighting or storming out the door. So after Thanksgiving dinner when my brother broached a political subject I took a deep breath and calmly replied. Every time he would raise his voice I would call him on it and what ensued was a forty five minute civil discussion of issues with nieces and nephews joining in. (I believe I am the only Democrat anyone in my family knows personally so I often feel like they see me as some kind of alien from the planet Blue.)
I find that not raising voices is almost magically transformative of discourse. Listening happens. And sometimes even thinking.
Berkeley Grimball, host of WCHL's ‘I’ll Grant You That'