For this week’s post, I was all set to rant against a news story coming out of Ohio. Now I can’t. What happened between then and now may hold a few lessons for us.
My little tale starts with a headline in my RSS feed. How can you not react to
First reaction: sigh. More weird antics in the abortion debate—the very antics that do as much to harden the battle lines as to clarify the issue.
Second reaction: media skepticism. Why did the reporter use the word testify? Surely he knew the connotations it would carry. I thought it inflammatory and irresponsible. So I decided to blast it here to illustrate the need for precise language when discussing difficult issues.
Then I dug a little deeper and came to my third reaction: uh-oh. The article appeared in The Huffington Post. I’ve just started writing for The Huffington Post. Do I really want to criticize a story on a website that might prove critical to my writing venture?
Fortunately, the article’s author linked his story to a release from Faith2Action, an organization supporting the legislation. Fourth reaction: whoops. The word testify came not from the author, but from the source itself.
So. What did I learn from this exercise?
First, vested interests die hard—very hard. I write a lot about the danger they present to authentic dialogue, and the value of spirituality in clearing them away. None of that means I’m completely free of the damned things. Like our basic human instinct for self-preservation, vested interests appear to be always with us. Hence the need to strive against them in our internal preparation for dialogue.
Second, it is so easy to miss the full story. Remember death panels? I wonder how much of that drama could have been averted if more people had simply dug deeper into the facts. Surely, with the testifying fetus story, I could have stopped with the notice in my RSS feed and come to some conclusion about irresponsible journalism. And I would have been wrong.
Third—and I’ve said this ad nauseam—getting the full story and clearing away vested interests require reflection, time, and work. In today’s culture, these are hard to come by. And yet, as the death panels brouhaha illustrates, our national conversations could be more productive, and move more efficiently toward resolving our national issues, if we took the time and did the work.
True, we all have lives. We cannot possibly research every news story that comes our way. What we can do, perhaps, is suspend our judgment on those issues we cannot research.
The ingredients of dialogue—depth of thought, precision of language, the work of the soul—are difficult and elusive. Clearly, none of us gets them completely right. But our attempts to do so can make the world better. That alone is reason to pursue them.