We are all guilty of not listening. Some, like myself, more often than others. This is particularly true when the person speaking is sharing an opinion that does not align with our own preconceived notions. Confirmation is pleasant, while conflict is unsettling.

We like to look into the mirror of our own ideas and see them staring back at us, reminding us that we are right and those who do not agree with us are wrong.

Yet, if we want to be understood, we must first seek to understand. That does not mean that we must agree with each other. It does mean that we must allow those who disagree with us to speak their mind, and to defend as if it were our own each individual’s right to their own ideas, opinions and beliefs. “No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve.

“This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country.

“Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings,” said Patrick Henry to the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Va., on March 23, 1775.

When we no longer care about our fellow man — what he thinks and feels — and when we seek to silence him because he does not believe as we do, then we are an axe fall away from severing the First Amendment from our Constitution.

If we hope to survive as one nation, under God, indivisible, with justice and liberty for all, then we must have ears to hear and eyes to see across the aisle of opinion. We must be vigilant and recognize when our leaders have substituted vitriol for vigorous and respectful debate, not for the sake of truth but to silence, discredit and defame their opposition. We must refuse to be complicit in such tyranny through our inaction. Instead, we must be courageous and speak up for the freedom of our foes, because in their liberty we find our own.

And we do well to remember that no one is silent though many are not heard. Beware if we abuse our power to the detriment of the minority when we are privileged to temporarily control the making and implementation of law and policy. History has proven many times over the fallacy of such action. The tables will eventually turn. People will protest when their liberty is threatened and out of the resulting firestorm may rise a destructive demagogue.

Such is our current president of the United States. Many wonder how Donald Trump was able to be elected to the highest office in our land. Those who were not heard; who were marginalized by the then ruling liberal majority, the intelligencia, and mainstream media; our friends and neighbors whose religious liberty and freedom of speech were at risk of infringement by our law makers and our judicial decision-makers, and whose silence had been mistaken for acquiescence, finally spoke up.

So desperate were they to be heard that they voted for a man whose character and conduct made a mockery of the God many of them love and the principles he taught, deeming Mr. Trump the lesser of two evils and therefore, their only hope.

Listen before it is too late. Let us all hear the voices of those who don’t agree with us and treat them as we would like to be treated, with respect and not contempt.

Another presidential election is coming. Political parties, please give us candidates for office to choose from who will pursue our preferred policies, yes, but who will also uphold our highest ideals. Let’s show our children that character counts, that Americans want a president who personifies integrity and possesses a reasonable modicum of honesty, decency, and wisdom, and elect one.

— Karen Wilson lives in The Dalles and is the wife of Pastor Mike Wilson of The Dalles First Christian Church, where she serves in various ministries.

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