Don’t listen, don’t learn
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Don’t listen, don’t learn

The Jewish Standard held its first-ever – but planned to be annual – teen rap session earlier this month. Enlightening and energizing, it gave us confidence that the next generation is informed and thoughtful. You’ll find an account of the session beginning on page 18, under the headline “Listen and learn.”

Words to live by – although, sadly, a lot of Americans don’t. As New York Times columnist David Brooks, back from a trip to Montana, reported in an online “conversation” with his colleague Gail Collins, “No one is listening. Minds are made up. The situation is dangerous.”

He was referring to political discontent – which is not limited to Montana – and cultural unease.

That combination can be explosive, especially when kindled by ignorance or mis- or disinformation.

Collins sought to reassure Brooks (and anyone reading the conversation): “I think part of what you were experiencing,” she wrote, “is the great rift between the crowded places and the empty places. The folks who live in the empty parts of the country feel as if they’re taking care of themselves, and that Washington is a faraway place whose interference is always unwelcome. I get where they’re coming from,” she added, “although I do need to point out that Montana gets $1.47 back for every dollar it sends to Washington, and that the folks in Montana who feel they’re so powerless … have 36 times the representation in the U.S. Senate as a resident of California.”

This newspaper and its readers are not in “the empty places,” and one of the most “crowded places” is right across the water. We are not immune to the dark mood and dis-ease elsewhere in America – largely fallout from a stressed economy. We have seen it, most recently and close to home, clouding the issue that continues to capture the news: a planned Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero.

Whatever the merits – and demerits – of all sides of the debate, we need to listen to one another. How else can we learn?

RKB

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