Both Republican AND Democrat

I try not to be dogmatic about my political positions, and they don’t collectively fit neatly within either of the two major US political parties. Recently, I’ve found myself looking more at the humanity of our issues and the people struggling with them in an effort to find practical solutions. Unfortunately, our politics don’t seem to be moving in that direction. I see a growing need to balance communal well-being and individual rights. It’s a “both/and” situation rather than an “either/or”. We need both collective action and individual responsibility. And the only open path in that direction is kindness and a willingness to see the humanity in the “other”.

Members of both political parties rally around their principles even as they demonize the opposition. It might be more accurate to say that they have weaponized their principles. They behave like ruthless players in the game of Monopoly attempting to destroy their opponents. It has become us vs. them rather than simply us working together to find mutually agreed upon ways to address our collective issues.

We need to recognize that we are all members of one family, US citizens. And like all families, we won’t always agree. But how we choose to disagree is critical to us continuing to behave like a family and move forward together. Politicians set up issues in false pairs, implying that we cannot address the challenges presented by refugees at our southern border while at the same time improving the lot of our underemployed and working poor in our own country. We can do both, but that requires us to be willing to listen to and learn from our political rivals. This is the lesson we need to learn from our modern divided politics.

The election of Donald Trump as president was the result of our unwillingness to listen rather than its cause. Because ideological purity had become so much a part of modern politics, rural America felt isolated and unheard, even unrepresented. Trump tapped into that and made them feel seen and heard. But the way he did it has divided the country even further. Trump encouraged supporters who chanted “Lock her up!” while Clinton referred to half of his supporters as a “basket of deplorables”.

The answer to this dilemma is neither the blustering hyperbole of the president nor the self-righteous indignation of his opposition. Instead all of us on both sides need to see that our opposition has a perspective that we are lacking. We need to learn from each other what we are missing from our political evaluations. We need to “seek first to understand, then to be understood“. And the first step in this direction is to see the humanity in our rivals and to treat them with kindness. Like all good things in life, this will be difficult, requiring action with no guarantee of reciprocity. But if no one is willing to go first, the only direction we are heading is more divided politics.

Overcoming Obstacles

man jumping across a small chasm

It has been a very rainy fall where I live. In fact, a few weeks back as I passed through the woods on my morning walk, I discovered my way blocked where the path was flooded. No problem, I thought. I know another path through. I backtracked and followed the other path. I soon came upon a similar situation. I tried going around the flooded path but found no success. I struggled to decide what to do.

I could simply walk back the way I had came instead of completing my regular loop. But that felt like giving up without trying, which I didn’t want to do. So, I headed back to the first path to look for a way through or around.

Once I arrived, I could see there was no way around. The flooding was too extensive. I looked for the shortest span I thought I could jump across without getting wet. I did my best to make it, but got my feet went anyway. I sloshed a short distance and came upon more flooding on my path. This time there were logs that I could walk across to stay dry. It was cold and the logs were slippery, but I managed to not get wet again. The rest of my walk home was soggy but obstacle-free.

As I walked home, I thought about what had happened. I was happy to not have been thwarted by the flooded paths. But I wanted to find a better way to get over them, one that would leave my feet dry. I didn’t know what I would do, but I was determined to find a way.

The next time I walked through those woods, the flooding had not receded at all. This time I found a fallen branch that I laid across the place I had jumped across previously. Then I found a long, thick branch to use as a walking stick. I used that to steady myself as I crossed the branch over the water. Success!

As I walked away, I realized I would need a walking stick the next day when I came back through. So I tossed the stick I had used back across the flooded area so I could use it the next morning. As I approached the next flooded area, I found another walking stick to cross over the logs and tossed it back for the next day’s walk.

Over the next week or so, the water slowly receded as I continued to use resources I had found in the woods to make my way down the path. Now the water has completely abated, but I am so grateful for the challenge that I overcame in the weeks previous. I feel stronger and more prepared to face difficulties on my walk should I encounter them.

During the those days when I had to get over or around that water in my path, something changed about my relationship to the woods and that path. I had been walking that woods since the summer and as fall progressed, it changed from dense green to being wide open and leafless. But it was more than that. My attention had been directed toward the pooling of water in the woods. I was noticing subtle low-lying areas that I had simply walked past before without noticing. By changing where my focus was, the obstacles had deepened and broadened my experience of the woods.

This lesson reminds of a book that I read last summer, The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs by Ryan Holiday. Every day has its obstacles and difficulties. When I encounter them, I can choose to give up and turn back. Or, I can look around me for the resources to find a way around, through, or over the difficulty. In doing so, I will gain a perspective and vision that I had not had prior to the trial. Even though I don’t actively seek out challenges in my life, I no longer try so hard to avoid them. They are helping me grow into the person I strive to become.

Go for a Walk

person walking on a path amongst fallen leaves

For some time I have taken a twenty to thirty minute walk each morning. Before I started doing this, I often took similar length walks during my lunch break at work, walking around the building by myself or with a co-worker. While I don’t remember when I started doing this, I do know why I do this. The reason is simple – it boosts my productivity.

On these walks, I don’t look at my phone. And I don’t try to work through a challenge I may be having. In fact, quite the opposite. I try to clear my mind, to simply be present in the moment and enjoy my immediate surroundings. It’s kind of a mini vacation from my work and troubles. So, how does this boost my productivity? The time away refreshes me in much the same way a vacation does, despite the small amount of time “away”. I learned about the remarkable power of down time years ago while programming in my own database consulting company.

In addition to talking with clients and potential customers, each day I worked at a computer, writing database programs. It wasn’t that unusual during a session of programming to run into a problem that did not yield immediately. As I continued to try to troubleshoot and unravel the issue, I would get more and more frustrated and more and more stubborn. I was dedicated to finding a solution! Sometimes I would spend all day on a problem, not even taking a break to eat lunch. Eventually, I would have to come out of my office for dinner, grumpy and unsuccessful. It took a while, but slowly I would let go of the problem as I ate and spent time with my family. The next morning as I was getting ready for work, showering or shaving, I almost always got a flash of inspiration for how to proceed. It wasn’t always the ultimate solution, but I was no longer stuck. I had a direction to go in that moved me closer to resolution.

Eventually, I began to see this pattern repeated. So, I stopped beating on problems when I got stuck, angry, and frustrated. I learned that the most productive thing was to step away from the problem and do something unrelated, often some sort of rest or play. As a result, I used the feeling of being stuck as a trigger to let go and move on to something else. Over time, instead of waiting for a problem to take advantage of this phenomenon, I began to build in quiet time and adequate rest in order to work as optimally as possible.

Modern research on sleep, rest, and play has shown that the current fascination with “working hard” and bragging about how little time we have or how little sleep we get is actually counterproductive. Our brains require rest and open-ended play in order to process the inputs we receive every hour of every day (Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang).

So don’t wait until you are so frustrated with a problem that you are swearing up a storm or throwing things across the room. Be proactive and take time out to rest and play. And if you have already crossed the line into anger and frustration, go for a walk. It’s likely the most productive thing you can do.

It’s All Personal

Don Corleone from The Godfather saying, "It's not personal. It's just business."

“It’s not personal. It’s just business.” In my experience this is a common phrase used when a business person needs to do something that might be perceived as harsh or unkind. Personally, I have never subscribed to the message behind this statement. It suggests that our work and personal lives are separate and that we can make decisions in one area of our lives separate from the other. In short, it implies that we are two people – one at work and another at home. I don’t buy it. To me, it’s all personal.

As an employee, when someone makes a decision that adversely affects me, that’s personal. It affects my life in a profound way. Brushing it off by saying, “It’s just business” is disingenuous at best and self-delusional at worst. Every decision a boss or manager makes affects others personally. To pretend otherwise is simply bad business.

Nonetheless, business people have to make difficult decisions every day. And many, if not most, of these will make a direct and substantial difference in the lives of their employees and clients. How can those involved do this while maintaining their own humanity and respecting that of their employees and clients? I think the answer is simple, yet challenging. Treat them the way you would want to be treated if you were on the receiving end of the bad news you are delivering. Here is an example.

Times are tough. Your company just lost its biggest client. You have reduced all other expenses as much as you can. Now you have to start letting some of your employees go. This is hard for you. You have built a cohesive team that feels closer to family than employees. How can you let some of them go? “It’s not personal. It’s just business.” is simply not an option. Be frank with the employees you need to let go. Explain as much of the situation as you can. Offer to provide excellent references. Provide or pay for assistance to them in finding another job, if you are able. This not only makes it easier for them to come back should things turn around, it also means that they leave with a more positive feeling about you and your company. This is leaves doors open rather than dismissively (and perhaps unintentionally) shutting them in their face. In short, it is good business.

Admittedly, this is a simple example. There can be, and often are, many other factors that make such decisions hard to carry out. No matter the situation, the best business decision is to always acknowledge and respect the humanity in others. Business is nothing more than people dealing with each other in a market of some kind. There really is no separation between business and the personal. Bringing your humanity to work is good business, because it’s all personal.

Our Technological Adolescence

butterfly emerges from its cocoon

Note: I am writing as a citizen and resident of the United States of America but I believe that the ideas in this post apply equally to all of us as human beings as fellow citizens of the world.

We hear it every day. Us vs. them. Right vs. left. Republican vs. Democrat. Red vs. blue. Globalization vs. protectionism. Urban vs. rural. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter. How did we get here? Why do we seem to be more divided than ever?

A lot has changed in the world over the last twenty to thirty years. Technology has become a bigger and more dominant part of our everyday lives, changing the way we relate to each other and to the world around us. How are we handling that change? I would answer, “Not well.”

As human beings, we have a tendency to hold on to what we know best and resist change when that change is scary or particularly unknown. As we do this as individuals we start to seek out others who think like us, for comfort. Our journalists have been taught to distill stories down to “just the facts”, largely erasing the broad spectrum of struggles that are going on by individuals that don’t fit their story. (See this wonderful article for the beginning of a solution to this problem in journalism.) While this is understandable, it only serves to divide us further.

Collectively, no matter what “side” we are on, we all seem to be deeply dissatisfied with where we are politically and culturally. We are asking ourselves and each other (or we should be), “How did we get here and what do we do?” Perhaps an analogy will give some perspective and provide some direction. By way of illustration, I will share something a little personal.

Growing up, I was the “good kid” in my family. I got good grades and did what I was told (mostly). I graduated second in my high school class and attended Georgetown University receiving a bachelor’s degree in Russian. By all outward definitions, I was a success. But inwardly, I was still an adolescent. I had made no decisions about who I was at a fundamental level. Worse, I didn’t even realize it. I had goals and ideals, but these were ones that I had received from my community. I wanted to help the world not blow itself up. That’s why I studied Russian at (what we didn’t know then was) the end of the Cold War. I wanted to have a wife and family, so I got married and had children. But I wasn’t connected to what it really meant to be a husband and father. I simply expected things to happen and just fall into place like they had throughout my life in school prior to my growing into adulthood. So while I had become an adult, I had never really grown up. Ultimately, this led to a decades long breakdown in my relationship with my wife, finally ending in divorce.

This completely exploded my view of myself and my place in the world and forced me back to deal with my incomplete adolescence in a way that I never had in my teen years and early twenties. I am convinced that if I had used my teen years to wrestle with the questions of adolescence, then much of the pain I experienced and caused others over the past three decades could have largely been avoided. And I fear that my country is in the midst of avoiding its own adolescence brought on by the drastic changes in technology that are affecting every aspect of our daily lives and that this is expressing itself in the division and separateness we feel from others. We are so afraid that our way of seeing and interacting in the world is going away that we are clinging to it and trying to beat the other side into accepting it. This will never work, because our way (whichever way that is) will no longer work due to these profound technological changes affecting our politics and economics. We are in the “teen” years of our global technological adolescence. We need to figure out what this great change means for our coming adult lives in this new world of technology, globalization, and relative abundance. Our current solutions aren’t designed with the new realities we are dealing with, so none of them is likely to work. We need new models and views of our world based on these new realities. But where will these new models come from. I suggest that the answers lies in returning first to the universal lessons of our childhood.

From 1968 to 2001, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood taught children about their world and how it works. The host, Fred Rogers, also spoke directly to his young viewers about difficult subjects like death and anger. And he ended each show by telling each viewer that he or she was special “just by being you…. And people can like you just for being you.”

In 1986, Robert Fulghum published All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Here is an excerpt that succinctly describes the lesson expanded on throughout the book:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

These are not partisan ideals; they are human ideals and principles. All our politics and economies have grown out of these. And since the changes we are in the midst of experiencing seem to have blown up the models we have built since the industrial revolution, now is the time to think up new models and identities that will work in this new environment, together. Is it scary? It sure is. But we cannot avoid this “growing up”; we can only put it off. And putting it off will only make the transition more scary and difficult. We have to “embrace the suck” in the short term to get to the freedom and joy of adulthood on the other side. If we don’t, we will only extend the discomfort and pain of this transition period. What exactly lies on that other side? None of us really knows, but let’s explore it together with the same sense of wonder and joy that accompany the fear of growing up into the unknown.

What’s with All the Privacy Policy Updates?

If you have a lot of online accounts, you have likely received many notices over the last few weeks regarding privacy policy updates. There is a simple reason for this. It’s called the GDPR or the General Data Protection Regulation. If you don’t live in the European Union, you might not be familiar with it. It is an EU law that goes into effect tomorrow (May 25, 2018) “to give control to citizens and residents over their personal data.” Because so many Internet-based companies do business worldwide, it is easier for many of them to simply adopt the practices necessary to meet the GDPR for all of their users. That’s why you are getting all those emails asking you to review new privacy policies.

So how does the GDPR affect citizens of the EU and the users of companies that adopt the GDPR in general? Here are some highlights.

  • Companies who collect any personal information from you must
    • clearly disclose what data is being collected and how
    • why it is being processed
    • how long it is being retained
    • if it is being shared with any third-parties
  • You have the right to request a portable version of the data collected and stored about you in a common format that would be easy for you to read; in other words, they can’t send it to you in a file format that you would need to purchase expensive software to read
  • You have the right to have your data erased in certain circumstances
  • Any breach of data must be reported within 72 hours
  • And any business who primarily processes personal data must appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) who is responsible for managing all this

Keep in mind that these regulations only legally apply to those individuals within the EU and companies who do business within the EU. However, since so many companies do business around the world and collect personal information to do so, there is a high likelihood that you will have many more ways to control how your data is stored and shared.

Be sure to not simply ignore all those updates to those privacy policies. It is worth taking a little time to review them. They should be much easier and clearer now in many cases due to the new GDPR regulations that take affect tomorrow in the EU.

On the Far Side of Distraction

Most of my adult life I have been known as a “techie”. Family and those I work with turn to me with their questions about technology. At one place I used to work, I was so “digital” that I was teased every time i printed something out. I have social media accounts. I read a lot, usually averaging a little over a book a week. And, as you can tell by the list in the column to the right of this post, I listen to a lot of podcasts.

But something odd has happened over the last few years. As the rising public concerns over online security and privacy have increased, I started to question my digital engagement. I stopped posting to social media as much as I used to. I started reading more physical book instead of exclusively ebooks. And after some personal challenges in the last two or three years, I started to question why I had filled my life with so much “noise”. There is so much media coming at me or piling up to be looked at and read that I’d sometimes find it overwhelming. And I started to ask myself, Why am I doing this?

As I started to quietly ask myself that question, I found something very odd happening. My desire to engage with others and my technology increased. Why would that happen? As I considered this in the relatively few quiet spaces in my life, I realized something. I was avoiding the question. Filling my days with engagement was a way to avoid self-examination. As a result, I made some changes.

Perhaps the biggest was that I banned my smartphone from the bathroom, specifically when I am getting ready for work. I used to listen to podcasts in the shower and while I shaved. No more. I also started meditating and taking purposeful breaks where I did nothing or went for a walk outside. In the beginning these were all very hard to do. The desire to fill the quiet space with some sound or engagement was strong. But I discovered on the other side of that burst of distractions a wide open peace where I could see myself honestly and compassionately, loving myself while also seeing those places where I can improve.

I am still challenged by the urge to distract myself. And sometimes I even indulge it. But I strive to break through these temptations to that space of peace and love for myself and others. It is difficult work making time for thoughtful reflection and simply being present in my world. But the rewards have been increased self-knowledge and peace with myself and others. I encourage you to explore for yourself what is on the far side of distraction. I think you will be glad you did.

Productivity and Journaling

Journal with a pen between the pages

When I was in high school, I kept a journal. I wrote in it nearly every day. It helped me notice what happened in my day-to-day life and make adjustments where I felt they were needed. Sometime during college I stopped journaling. I’m not really sure why. After a difficult time recently, I found myself again looking for the benefits I experienced from journaling as a teenager. What I discovered has worked well for me, and not just for self-awareness. Using a Bullet Journal has also made me more productive.

I was looking for a flexible way to organize the stuff I needed to get done while also trying to learn more about journaling in general. For tasks, I was always looking for just the “right way” to store and act on all the things I need to do. But as I started journaling again, I realized that perhaps there was no such thing. Not only am I a unique person (just like you!), I am also a dynamic person; I am constantly changing and growing. So, the tool or system I start using today may not work for me in a year or two. I need a flexible system, kind of like my traditional journal. My journal was just a notebook ― some pages to write my thoughts down on. It was for me and me alone. I thought of myself as writing to my future self to remind him of what I was doing or feeling at the time I wrote. I had no formal structure. I could write what I wanted in any way I wanted. And I could change however I was doing it at any time. I needed a productivity system as customized and flexible as my journal.

That’s when I came across the Bullet Journal created by Ryder Carroll. I no longer remember how I initially learned about it, but I was intrigued from the beginning. The basic guidelines are simple and make it easy to start. An entire community of bullet journalers has developed around this way of keeping a journal. Many are very artistic which can be very intimidating if you don’t feel very creative (like me). There are also some “minimalist” bullet journalers who help take the pressure off those of us who feel less creative (thank you!).

Artsy Bullet Journal Page
Artsy Bullet Journal Page
Minimalist Bullet Journal Page
Minimalist Bullet Journal Page

In my research, I also found a great book called Dot Journaling―A Practical Guide (Bullet Journal is trademarked). It has loads of simple ideas for how to get started easily and organize your journal, while encouraging you to do what works for you. You can find even more samples and ideas on YouTube and Instagram (search for #BuJo).

When I started journaling again, I tried to write in the traditional way every day. But I tended to wait until the end of each day. Often I was too tired or couldn’t think of anything I wanted to write. Now that I have a Bullet Journal, I keep track of all my tasks, appointments, thoughts, and even traditional journal entries in the same place. I am still deciding exactly what works best for me, but I love it! I encourage you to give it a go and see if it works for you. I find it enlightening, fun, and productive. You might, too!

Informed Convenience

The GAFA companies (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) were on Capitol Hill earlier this month facing Congress. The questions asked of them boiled down to, “Do you realize how your services can be used to subvert our democracy? Are you taking this as seriously as your bottom line?” The not so subtle threat behind this is the possibility of government regulation. And Congress wasn’t impressed by who they sent, either. Instead of their CEOs, they all sent lawyers. It seems that maybe they aren’t taking this as seriously as they should. This got me to wondering, “How did we get here?”

When these now giant companies started in the 90s, they were just startups. Amazon’s business plan didn’t show it making a profit for ten years. Facebook was the way college students (only) connected with each other. Google was a new search engine that was only starting to replace Yahoo! as people’s first choice to find things on the internet. And Apple was a niche computer maker with a very small part of the market. Each of these companies worked like crazy to attract users. They focused on serving those users and a big part of that was making a space to meet a particular need and then getting out of the user’s way. In many ways, they were legitimately creating a (largely) free and unfettered online community. You could say and do whatever you wanted. What you saw on Facebook was all the updates of all your friends, no matter how overwhelming. But as the internet grew and mobile computing came along in 2007, this changed.

Those funding these startups began to pressure them to be profitable and go public. Advertising began to be more and more a part of the experience. And, with the overwhelming amount of information that became available, they all began to curate their user experience in some way. And we all welcomed this help sorting through the sea of information that the internet became. But we never evolved our understanding of these companies along with that change. They stopped being simple meeting places and tools. They started to become filters of our online experiences. Again, not bad — just a fact. Instead of using their products, we became the product.

How can we keep the services we like and use everyday without being taken advantage of? I think the key is transparency. I don’t mean that Facebook and Google should publish their algorithms. I do mean that they should explain broadly what their algorithms do. For example, it was sometime after they changed their feed policy before I learned that I was no longer simply seeing an unfiltered list of my Facebook friends’ feeds. Facebook now only shows you some of the feeds of your friends. If you look at your friend’s page itself you will see it all, but they show you only the best and what they think will keep you on Facebook. And they insert promoted content, too. They weren’t transparent about this. They should be.

These companies continue to claim that they should not be responsible for the content published on their platforms as they have no control over what users post. At the same time, they manipulate what their users see without clearly telling them that’s what they are doing. They can’t have it both ways. They need to go back to being completely unfiltered, or be transparent about the way they are curating the user experience. And if they choose neither, Congress is likely to begin regulating them.

In the meantime, what is the average user to do? All this change behind the scenes is frustrating and makes us feel used. Indeed, many say we are being used, that we are the product being sold rather than being the customer. For me the answer is what I call informed convenience. The internet and mobile are such a part of our everyday lives that there is no going back. Short of not having a mobile phone at all or never using the internet, we will encounter these companies and their products. So, we need to become better digital citizens. How do we do that without becoming paralegals in order to understand those Terms of Service we all have to agree to but never read?

Today there are many tools and websites to help you figure out in plain English what the terms of service are for a site or service. Here are three I found on a quick search:

  1. Terms of Service; Didn’t Read
  2. Clickwrapped
  3. Terms & Conditions Checker

Also, many of these companies have started to provide or use alternative services. Encrypt your computer hard drive and smartphone (both Android and iPhone have this capability). Make sure you know what rights you are giving up by using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use DuckDuckGo for search instead of Google because DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you. Pay for private email instead of using free email that it selling information about you. Buy books at your local bookstore instead from Amazon.

And if you are okay with what all of these companies are doing, don’t do anything differently. I am not trying to tell you what services you should or shouldn’t use. I am suggesting that you decide knowing what you are agreeing to. After doing a little research you may find that you have to give up a little convenience to live closer to the digital life you want to live. That’s okay. And rather than unknowingly being used, you will be practicing informed convenience.

 


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Listening to Each Other

With all that has been going on in politics in the United States over the last year, it can be easy to think that it is a new thing that we as Americans and even human beings aren’t doing a good job of listening to each other. Let me explain what I mean.

Last week I read an article by US Army veteran green beret Nate Boyer. It was an open letter addressing the controversy over what, if anything, should be done about players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games. Interestingly, the author of that open letter met with Colin Kaepernick after his first protest — sitting on the bench during the national anthem. In the meeting, Boyer made it a point to listen to Kapernick. Afterward, he felt that Kapernick had listened to his perspective as a veteran. It was after that meeting that Kapernick started kneeling next to his teammates instead of sitting on the bench. Boyer expressed that he has no issue with that and doesn’t feel it is disrespectful. There are plenty of others who do feel it is inappropriate. But he points out that the real issue here is not the dispute. It is that we are so stuck in our own perspectives that we are unwilling to accept that someone else could think very differently about an issue than we do. His prescription for the current dispute over this issue? The President of the United States (who has repeatedly expressed that he feels such protests are wrong) and Kolin Kapernick should meet and listen to each other.

I opened this post by saying that this lack of listening feels new. But it’s not. This afternoon I watched the movie Hacksaw Ridge. It was released last year and tells the story of a soldier in World War II who refused to carry a gun. He saved 75 of his fellow soldiers during a gruesome battle and was the only conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. And no one listened to him, either. His fellow soldiers assumed that he was a coward for his refusal to carry a gun. The fact is that he felt very strongly about the war and his need to serve. He just wanted to do it saving lives as an Army medic. Due to this lack of understanding, his fellow soldiers and commanding officers tried to get him discharged or make him quit. He refused to quit or carry a gun. After the battle of Okinawa ended on the first day, he stayed on the ridge continuing to risk his life to pull injured men to safety — 75 of them, including some injured Japanese. They had refused to listen to Private Desmond Doss.

One way we can learn from Private Doss is to follow his actions. He did not spend a lot of time trying to convince other of his convictions or even try to make them understood. Instead he acted on his convictions and tried to understand those around him. Now that is something that seems to be missing from our current civil and social discourse. I only hope that we will learn from a hero of the Greatest Generation and follow the advice of recent veteran Nate Boyer and simply listen to each other with a heart to understand. Only then will true progress be possible.