End-of-year byline columns … or even end-of-decade .. traditionally review the period, pick major events that affected us. Or they look ahead, guessing where we’re going. I can do neither. Not this time.

Where to start? Wall Street’s implosion … or Tiger’s? Terrorism in our skies … or our investment houses? Insurance company and major bank ripoffs … or oil company’s obscene profits? The it-speaks-well-of-America election of our first black president … or the it-speaks-shamefully-of-America we have a Congress proven embarrassingly incapable of having it’s members work together?

Looking ahead, what would you say? Those who got us into this mess will face justice … or crime pays if you do it on a large enough scale? We will end the needless expenditure of national blood and treasure in two no-win wars … or we’ll go deeper in battle and borrowed debt? We will provide for the common man (and woman) … or the common man (and woman) will continue to provide for a Congress increasingly divided, arrogant and out-of-touch?

In the last decade, we had our foundations rattled. Hard! First by terrorists then by internal structural failures. If you’re among the millions who lost home or job …or both … you’d probably have a hard time picking which of just those two events most affected your life.

In a number of Oregon counties, there was the good news the safety net funding heavily relied upon for years would continue; then the bad news that it’d be significantly less and eventually end. We’ve seen Northwest jobs disappear, erosion of government services and new or higher fees for many things. Right here at home. With more of both ahead.

In that one story … what do you say about what’s happened and what do you predict will occur in 2010? Even those who have to make the hard local choices can’t answer with certainty.

Frankly, looking at the last 10 years, a most significant occurrence I see is one to be found in any community across our entire country. Local and national, it’s affected our politics, our business, our personal and corporate relationships and is sorely testing the fabric that’s traditionally bound us together as a nation among nations; the leader among leaders.

We have become less a nation of listeners and more divided by talkers. We’ve reshaped much of our national dialogue and governance pursuing single views without reasoned debate; without listening to each other.

There is no one person or event to fault for this. It didn’t start at a single moment. It’s been building for a long time. It didn’t begin in the last year. But it reached a new high in the decade.

Like small children learning only a small part of something new, then telling others all sorts of details based on that little knowledge, we’ve forgotten to listen until learning more facts. As a nation, many of us stick with what we know, form opinions without hearing both sides and act with finality, not hearing other views.

Our nation was founded on compromises made after hearing all sides. International trade tariffs, monetary standards, declaring wars, even slavery; all involved talked, all involved listened, all acted on information gleaned from … listening.

In the last decade, we’ve seen national political structure forged more by single-issue declarations than by reasoned debate. We’ve seen the “us versus them” philosophy intra-party and across party lines. We’ve watched isolated minority viewpoints based on incomplete facts become law through divisive manipulation. New and possibly better ideas have been lost in favor of simply and mindlessly opposing based on information generated by the loudest.

This can be found in other arenas. But Congress has set the gold standard for outrageous talking while ignoring open-minded listening. Global warming. Health care. National security. Wars. Stalemates on new laws to regulate corporations and individuals who all but sunk our national economy.

The litany of bad news which wrote some of the most important headlines of the decade is uncomfortable to remember. Most of us will consign the period to history with little regret.

My hope for 2010 … my repeated prayer for 2010 … is we will demand of each other a return to listening. Silently, thoughtfully, fully; we can solve most of what ails our nation by … listening. We can disarm division and discord … by listening. We can improve our own and our national relationships … by listening.

Will you join me … listening?

Comments are closed.