Many moons ago, when my wife and I married, I was one year out of law school.
My recent education had instilled within me critical thinking skills I fully believed would pour over into other areas and be of benefit to me beyond my business life.
It did not take long, however, to learn those supposed skills were not always transferable to the give-and-take required in a healthy marriage. As the love of my life kindly pointed out to me, although I might have thought I was quick on my feet, I was not particularly adept at listening.
To be specific, she could look at me as we were having a discussion that might have included a difference of opinion and know I was not listening as much as I was formulating my response to her. I think I tried to explain it to her as “active listening,” but she was having none of it. Anything that took my mind away from what she was saying was of little interest to her – be it active, inactive or somewhere in between.
There is also that whole thing about sometimes not even needing to respond at all, but simply acknowledging what is being said and, if needed, offering sympathy. It’s taken a long time for me to learn that and it’s still a work in progress, but I try my best.
You might find this an odd segue, but one month into the Biden administration, which began with the new president pleading for unity as a nation, I am beginning to wonder how much anyone listened to him and whether he is willing to listen to others, especially those with ideas different from his.
Regular readers know I believe anyone is better than the previous White House occupant, and I’m far from giving up, but I do have some concerns.
In his inaugural address, President Biden acknowledged there would be those who would disagree with him, and all he asked was for those folks to be willing to have a discussion. I don’t remember his exact words, but they were something along the lines of “let’s talk about it.”
Then he swiftly signed more executive orders than any president before him.
Did he talk to anyone about all those orders, including some who might hold opposing views? I hope he did, but I don’t know.
I would ask the same question about his legislative agenda. Are he and the Democrats listening to GOP colleagues?
A few days ago, I received an email from a well-known pastor telling me about the Equality Act being pushed by Biden administration. It would amend civil rights laws to add protective language regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.
I’m not at all persuaded by the letter from the pastor telling me how this will be the start of all kinds of terrible things like men and women sharing restrooms and such. I long ago stopped reacting to the overreactors.
But I wonder if anyone from Biden’s team or the Democratic party initiated a conversation with anyone who might have these concerns? Has there been any attempt to assure religious organizations that, with the enactment of this law, their rights will still be protected in accordance with a number of recent Supreme Court decisions?
Did anyone listen to any views that might have questioned the legislation in order to minimize future consternation and possibly avoid legal action? Or is it going to pass as written because it’s a hot topic with its sponsors?
Similarly, but (ironically) on the other end of the political spectrum, here in Tennessee there is legislation pending, supported by the governor, which seeks to mandate students’ school sports participation (in middle and high school) according to their birth gender.
From everything I have read, this issue has never presented any type of problem for middle or high school athletics or its participants. So why is the legislation needed?
For those lawmakers who have a sincerely held belief that transgender athletes would be a threat to school sports, have they discussed this with teachers, coaches or representatives from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association (TSSAA)? Better yet, have they discussed it with athletes who participate in these sports? How about parents of transgender children?
Since there are no recorded instances of this issue even coming up in Tennessee school sports, there is plenty of time to conduct research and listen to a number of different points of view before rushing through legislation that is sure to ruffle the feathers of those who might believe it to be oppressive.
The cynical side of me, however, suspects the legislative sponsors see the political expediency of getting a law such as this on the books in this heavily red state, and there’s no need to consult with those who might see things in a different light. (Please, if anyone knows differently, poke holes in this assumption.)
I’m not nearly as concerned with being a united nation – or state— as being one with citizens who can work together despite their differences and, as my wise spouse taught me, take time to listen before hurrying up with a response – a response that might not even be necessary.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].