OK

A good part of what makes this place great is not only the intelligence so frequently on display, but also the diversity. I admit, I enjoy both those qualities which are so evident here. Another great quality found here in abundance is passion.  Yes, I often enjoy that also.  However, sometimes, that passion and intelligence fires a bit quickly, without stopping to consider the diversity factor. May I gently suggest, take a moment before shooting off at the keyboard?

If you'll bear with me and follow me past the orange squiggle, I'll give an example.

A few days ago, in one of my typically bland comments (while I admire passion, I usually show great restraint in my writing, with a few notable exceptions,) I made a typo. A silly, foolish typo. I omitted the apostrophe from a contraction. A witty soul felt the compunction to point out my apparent ignorance.

For all that erudite Kossack knew, I was just uneducated. Or had a learning disability. Perhaps I was simply in a hurry before leaving for a job I was desperate to keep and didn't proof sufficiently in my haste. I could have been new to the site and seeking progressive, productive interaction while bereft of a proper formal education, an issue I was hoping to address at some point. There were a multitude of possible reasons for that typo/error.  

In reality, I suffered a severe brain injury in early January of 2001 and was in a coma until mid-March. It was a long, difficult road to walk, read and write again. While I have made tremendous progress, I still have intermittent "dark" areas. I forget words that used to be a staple in my vocabulary. Sometimes, spelling of the simplest of words eludes me. Occasionally, I forget the names of my children. Once, I wandered for almost two hours in a parking lot, terrified, trying to remember the type of vehicle I arrived in and who I came with. Then, suddenly, in sweetest relief, the dark sweeps away and I remember again! The specialists told me that, after five years of healing, my brain had healed as much as it would.  Not quite my old self, I admit, but oh, so very much better than after I awoke from the coma.

Ironically, in my profession, writing is my foundation; pleadings, briefs, memorandums, contracts and so forth. I have completely accepted that I will be relegated to the role of research and writing because I fully realize that it would be impossible for me to make a trial appearance.  I have had others in my field praise my legal research and writing as some of the best they have seen. I have often chuckled to myself over the incongruity. They have no idea of what I go through before the finished product that they see; the countless drafts and repeated proof-reading, dozens of times over many days, before the product is fit to be seen by anyone other than myself. Of course they have no idea, how could they if I haven't told them?

Now, there is no possible way that commenter could have known any of this. We never can really know just what is behind that comment that leaps out at us as being "wrong."  On the face of it, we just see the comment that confounds us and we have no idea how that particular person got to the point where that became their perspective.  Our first reaction is to respond with how wrong that thinking is.  A couple of weeks ago, I read a comment that struck me as hurtful and I said so, in a very civil fashion. And yet, I was so involved in my perspective of hurtful, that I didn't take a moment to try to see the author's perspective, nor did I even explain why the comment felt hurtful. I regret that.  

I know from all the comments and diaries that I have been privileged to read here, our fellow Kossacks are an amazingly diverse group. There are many passionate, intelligent, well-meaning people here with varied Kosabilities, ethnicities, sexual orientation, economic and educational backgrounds, disparate ages and those from urban, suburban and rural areas. No two of us look at everything the same way and, gloriously, one can always read through this site and learn something new from a fresh perspective on even the oldest of issues.

Yes, we are an incredibly diverse group here. We bring with us a wealth of various backgrounds and rich textures of unique experiences, all contributing to the fascinating tapestry that is DailyKos. Each of us is, to an extent, a product of those unique factors, giving us our own perspective, strengths, and weaknesses. Perhaps, just perhaps, before that passionate response to that transparently silly opinion, faulty perspective, or even that ignorant typo (smile,) we took a moment and remembered that we have no idea what led that person to that perspective. No inkling of what experiences, perhaps even trauma, brought that particular person to feel that particular way, and that maybe, just maybe, their passion is as strong as our own. While we do not have to agree, we can still be respectful of their individuality, personal perspective and passion, even when we do not understand from whence it came. And if we are lucky, maybe we can learn to understand how they got there.

Just imagine, what a force we could be, if only instead of shooting from the hip at the perceived weakness or "erroneous" perspective of another, we took the time to buoy that weakness, share that strength, or understand that perspective, even when they don't mesh or agree with our own.  No, I'm not suggesting that we be tolerant of our differences, but rather that we embrace them and learn from them, thereby making all of us stronger and with a broader perspective.

Perhaps, before firing off that response, pause for moment and consider what may lie behind it; emotions, experiences, a lifetime, a culture. Perhaps, before pounding out exactly what is wrong with this person's thinking, one might ask why they feel or think that way. Perhaps, one could truly listen to and consider their response, before explaining how one's own view was arrived at. No, you probably won't change your mind when the conversation is over, but you just might broaden your own perspective. The beauty of effective communication is that when you engage in it, you have nothing to lose and a world of possibilities to gain. At worst, you won't have to duck quite so often when the next pie fight breaks out.

As I said, just a gentle suggestion and I'm grateful if you consider it.

Originally posted to RoCali on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 10:29 AM PST.

Also republished by Courtesy Kos, Positive Intention and Lovingkindness, and J Town.

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