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Eric Douglas: Take time to listen to other ‘truths’

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to listen to two men speak and what they said still resonates with me.

Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian, and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, a Jewish settler, were in Charleston to talk about their own personal transformation. When they met, both men said they were afraid of the other. But, over time, they have come to learn about each other and understand that the issues in Israel and Palestine aren’t simple.

Rabbi Schlesinger said, “You have to listen until it hurts. You have to accept him or her for who they say they are. Not tell them who they are.”

Awwad echoed that: “Nonviolence is not for weak people. You have to be able be able to see others and show them themselves. You become a mirror of the other. When you take sides, you don’t take the side of a solution.”

I don’t want to minimize what either man spoke about. They live in a world where people are killed on a regular basis over their conflict. But, as they spoke, I kept thinking about our own conflicts at home. Our nation has become so polarized, political beliefs have damaged or destroyed friendships. The supposed anonymity of social media gives people license to call each other horrible names because they believe differently. No one takes the time to ask, is there an element of truth in what the other is saying?

Rabbi Schlesinger said, “Falsehood is partial truth masquerading as complete truth. Our job is to seek out partial truths in the other and incorporate them into ourselves. If I live my life based on one truth, I am trampling on another truth.”

If these two men, and the organization they founded together that brings together members of both sides to learn about each other and find peace and a peaceful solution to their conflict, can say they love each other and respect each other, then our problems here should be nothing in comparison.

Over the weekend, I heard a news commentator say that American politics used to be carried out between the 40-yard lines, but not anymore. He was saying that we used to come to the middle and find compromise. Now, compromise is almost considered blasphemy.

Rabbi Victor Urecki introduced the two speakers at the event I attended. As he did, he said, “It is a difficult situation, but we can find a way forward by listening to each other’s truths.”

I believe that applies to everything. It applies to all of us.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com


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