While John Lennon sang about peace, and preached about everyone just getting along, that could only happen if we all understood each other.
Or, to put it another way, if we were all on the same page — meaning that everyone involved in “the conversation” understood what the conversation was about — there would be hope that we could actually accept our differences and not attack those who think and act differently from ourselves.
And while Rodney King also asked a question, in all sincerity and innocence, it was a yes or no question as opposed to a why question.
He asked, “Can we all get along?” (a question that he was no doubt hoping could be answered with a simple yes) as opposed to the title of this column, which asks for a reason.
So many people in this world — and to bring it down to a more manageable-sized chunk of real estate, in this country — do not even know what the person in front of them is really talking about, so how can they make a worthwhile comment on it, let alone join them on the “same page,” or contribute toward world peace, or even peace of the moment?
I see it all the time on news shows — one person talking over another because that person believes what he or she has to say is more important than what anyone else has to say. On such shows no one’s point or commentary is given enough free rein to be heard and really understood, so therefore it cannot be truly argued with, debated, or, heaven forbid, even agreed with.
Apparently that kind of behavior is considered perfectly acceptable all around: did not our candidates for the highest office in the land — the presidency of the United States— recently all do the exact same thing? Haven’t we seen this behavior all over TV, on every conceivable type of show where more than one person — and usually more than two — are asked for their opinions or viewpoints on a subject or a point?
And it isn’t always just about politics. Yet always, all points get
lost in the overtalk.
I recently was enjoying a happy, friendly conversation with an old friend, on the subject of what a woman has to learn to do when in a marriage with a man who doesn’t do what can be considered “the usual things that a man does around the house.” The conversation took me back to my teenage years, when I completely remodeled my bedroom by myself. I re-papered my walls (something which I would never do again,
thank you), painted wherever the wallpaper didn’t go, laid down a new rug, and refreshed all my old furniture with either a coat of new paint or a good rub down with some furniture wax. Then I hung some new curtains and tossed a pillow or two on my bed and voila! A whole new look. It was a lot of work, but it was satisfying to see the finished results.
Well, my point was that if a female wants something done and the man of the house was not inclined to do it, she could figure out a way to do it herself. Rather than just get the point and maybe throw in one or two of her own examples of doing things for herself (of which she had many), she insisted on talking over me and asking me useless questions about my procedure in laying the rug. Believe me, I didn’t have a procedure! If my life depended on it, I couldn’t tell her one
detail about that whole situation — laying the rug, painting my
woodwork, or even hanging the wallpaper — other than that it was hard work…and very messy. Maybe the only thing about that makeover that I can recall is some kind of a pan of water or paste for the roller brush with which to put up the wallpaper, which made that part of things all the messier. But my friend insisted on knowing details about how I could possibly lay a rug all by myself. That was all she heard, and she wouldn’t let it go.
When I told her I didn’t remember any of the details about that particular part of my remodeling scheme, and it wasn’t about details anyway — it was just about doing things for oneself when a man wasn’t around (or didn’t want) to do it for you — she continued to press me, asking if I used a “kicker” during the procedure. Well, maybe the fact that I didn’t know what a kicker was could have been a clue as to my “procedure,” but unfortunately, she pressed on, asking me one question after another about laying that darn rug, totally not hearing — or ignoring — my replies that I could not remember any of those details, and it was not about such details to begin with, leaving me no choice — if I wanted to my keep blood pressure in check — but to extricate myself from the conversation since I chose to not continue conversing
with an “earless-hearless” talking head. She hasn’t spoken to me since.
Sometimes politics get into such go-nowhere conversations: one person trying to make a point — and likely a good point from his or her point of view — and the other one harping on a detail that has nothing to do with the point. They talk over each other without any regard for the rules of discussion, the rightness or wrongness of their point, or even a sense of common decency or “gentlemanliness.” No one can really
properly hear or understand either side, so in essence, they wasted their time, their effort, and their money (if indeed they had to pay for their time to be heard).
But getting back to the title of this column, “Why can’t we all just get along?”, part of the answer may well be because we don’t listen to each other, and by not listening, there is much we do not learn that might contribute to our understanding of those who don’t share our opinions or viewpoints, or of those who perhaps are just sharing a tidbit of information with us. At the very least, listening to what we need to learn about others can help us understand our own point of view better, and maybe even upgrade it, in case we are the ones whose
viewpoint needs a little tweaking or such.
And addressing the question that Rodney King asked, “Can we all get along?”, which required a yes or no answer, at the time he asked it was obviously a no. Yet as time goes by, and the more we learn about our differences, one from another, it seems like the answer would have to be more like an “Of course not,” or “I don’t see how.”
However, perhaps the good news is that change is a constant. And given enough time, and enough reason for everyone to WANT to get along, the answer can eventually be a very possible, albeit tentative, “yes.”
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.