Ironically, after making reference to Rush Limbaugh in yesterday’s reflections, I had a related conversation today.
I overheard one of the conference participants, a man from the US, talking about Obama and how terrible he has been for the United States. My dad used to be a big eavesdropper, and the joke was that once he almost fell out of his chair, he was leaning so far to overhear.
I couldn’t help but chime in, even though to do so would admit my own eavesdropping. I asked the man about his statement, and admitted that I actually have been quite supportive of Obama (in the interest of disclosure, I figured he should know why I was asking).
His responses were fascinating to me. “He was the most liberal member of congress,” “he is making America into a socialist country,” “his campaign was deceptive” were a few of the reasons he gave.
It reminded me of a conversation I had during the primaries, with friends who supported Hillary Clinton. What struck me at that time, and again in this conversation, was that they seemed to be slogans that were simply repeated. These slogans were all things I had already heard in the media, both from those who were supporting Hilary Clinton, and those who were opposed. There was no new content in them, and, for the most part, they were not explained or defined. They were just launched, like a grenade whose rhetorical impact could then be lobbed over to the ‘other side.’
I’m not claiming to be immune from this. I don’t mean to say it is only done by Republicans, or only done by Hilary Clinton supporters, or not done by me or people like me.
What fascinates me is that it seems to, thus, actually prevent any sort of real communication from happening.
The ‘meat’ of this conference is something called ‘manuscript study.’ I am in a group that is looking at the second half of the book of Mark. We take turns reading a passage to ourselves, discussing it at our tables in small groups, and then discussing it as a larger group. The question we are to keep before us, at all times, is ‘what did you see’ and then, ‘where did you see it?’
The point is to keep us rooted in the text. But even in these first few days I have seen how easy it is to ‘sloganize.’ In that sloganizing, I wonder, does it keep us from real communication?