Why We Have a Hard Time Talking To Each Other

An “other” will only get human moments from another “other”. with great difficulty I witnessed this when Trevor Noah interviewed Tomi Lahren. I’ve never paid attention to The Blaze and I have barely watched the Daily Show so I don’t know either of these people well and can only make guesses based on this one interview.

Trevor asked Tomi how the black community should air their grievances if not through marching or protests or kneeling during the national anthem. Tomi never gave a straight answer.

I do not know if Trevor sincerely asked this question, but I believe Tomi’s defensiveness possibly sprang from insecurity but in the presence of a liberal host and his largely liberal audience. It is hard to be open and vulnerable when you are expecting hostility and opposition.

Both Tomi and Trevor are human beings with their own interesting stories that make them who they are. They cannot be boiled down to “alt-right millenial” or “liberal South African”. They both are more than their labels.

But Trevor is not going to be the person who will be able to show that Tomi is more than her label although I applaud Trevor for having Tomi on his show. I don’t think Tomi would be able to do likewise if the situation was reversed, but I do have respect for her for going on the Daily Show.

Tomi and Trevor would both have a hard time with this because they are seen as each other’s opposite, the “other”, the opponent.

However, we not are as tied to our political labels as Trevor Noah and Tomi Lahren. We can set aside our biases and listen to the person’s argument until they get tired of arguing and we can then get to know them as a person, as a human being just like us.

Consubstantialism and Empathy

While growing up in the Lutheran church, I realized that most people misunderstood what Lutherans believe. A high school history textbook that confused Lutheranism with Calvinism shocked me the most; textbook writers are supposed to fact check, right?

You’ll often see other Christians say with complete confidence that Lutherans are “consubstantialists” when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. That term doesn’t exist in any of Luther’s writings; It’s not how Lutherans talk about themselves; it’s not even what Lutherans believe!

And the craziest thing about these misunderstandings is how simple they are to fix. All you have to do is call up a Lutheran pastor and ask them, “what do you believe? how would you talk about the Lord’s Supper?”

This misunderstanding is harmless and easy to correct. But it does point to how all forms of prejudice and misunderstanding arise. When we do not take the time to listen to each other, we will end up speaking for that person or group without knowing their full story.

I am thankful that I spent most of my life as a Lutheran without anyone really understanding what I believe. It opened my eyes to what happens if we do not try to get our stories of others straight from the source.

That’s why this blog will not be me talking about whites or blacks or atheists or Christians or Muslims or Jews. I want whites talking about whites, blacks talking about blacks, Muslims talking about Muslims, etc. Because they are experts on what it is like to be them. I believe this is the most fundamental step for all of us seeing the “other” as our brother (and sister, I’m just using that phrase because it rhymes).

Introducing Empathy Through Story

Today, I am beginning Empathy Through Story. During the 2016 Election. I realized that Americans were becoming increasingly afraid of the “other”. And who the other is depends on who you are. Blacks and rednecks, Christians and atheists, Muslims and Jews, Democrats and Republicans, Baby Boomers and Millenials. Any of these groups can be an “other” depending on who you are. Too often empathy and understanding is something we expect to receive but are less willing to give. If an atheist Democrat millennial, you are worse off for your lack of empathy. If you are a Christian Republican baby-boomer, the same goes for you. Whatever you believe, a lack of love and thoughtfulness makes that belief less than what it could have been otherwise.

Because of this, I am not concerned with your ideology, but rather how you view your fellow man. So Empathy Through Story is about people. It’s about reminding us that there is just one kind of people in this world and in this country: people. No matter how different we may appear to each other, we share so much in common. And few things will better show off this fact than story.

My own love for those unlike me is far from perfect and it is my hope that I too will grow in empathy by interviewing men and women of all races, creeds, and economic situations. I also hope that you will join me on this journey.

~Charles Pustejovsky