Wednesday, January 12, 2011

About criticism...

Criticism is just a really bad way of making a request.

No, I didn’t say it, but I wish I had. Diane Sawyer quoted it from someone she’d interviewed, then pointed a pistol finger at the side of her head and said, “Genius.” She was right.

For the nearly 40 years I’ve been married, I have hated television. Not because I think all TV is bad, but because in our house, it’s on every waking moment of the day. When the house was full of kids and noise, the TV was the loudest noise of all, because not only was it on, people were watching it. From my point of view, which is admittedly only half the equation now and was much less then, nothing that was said on TV was as important as anything that was said between us. This argument has been shot down for 40 years. I have complained about the one-eyed-monster that lives in three rooms of our house and criticized its watchers for…well, you know how long by now.

I, on the other hand, want to read the news. And everything else. I read the newspaper daily, but get most of my news from the Internet. I am annoyed when I want to read a news story and end up instead with a video. If I wanted video, I would watch TV. (Just another argument I’m losing.)

I also like to read for entertainment,not watch TV. Until Duane bought me a Kindle, my books and magazines cluttered every flat surface in the house as well as the bookcases, my car, and several boxes in the attic. Not being particularly neat in any event, this clutter has never bothered me. It has, on the other hand, driven Duane crazy for, yes, 40 years. Before he gave up—as I did with TV—he was critical of my clutter and of the fact that I have to read things to get them; I can’t always absorb what I’m being told.

We have come to an easiness with the passage of time. He turns the TV down, though never off, and tries to listen to me even if what I’m saying lacks importance. I buy my books electronically and try to keep the magazines in semi-neat stacks, though I fail way too often. Because we like each other a lot, we’ve also learned to make some allowances for the other person’s quirks.

I can’t help but wonder if we’d have learned much faster if we’d just asked more often instead of criticizing.

We had elections in November, with all the newly elected people being critical of their predecessors and promising big changes and promising to keep their promises. Within two weeks of swearing in, we’ve seen broken promises and heard constant disparagement of how the new folks are doing the jobs they haven’t even learned how to do yet. The criticisms from both sides of the ideological table are vitriolic and downright mean. Fact-checking is tossed aside in favor of having the loudest voice.

Over the weekend, an Arizona congresswoman was shot. During the same siege, six people died, including a nine-year-old. Before the blood was washed from the scene, before anyone knew if Gabrielle Giffords would live or die, blame, accusations, and criticism were being bandied about like stray bullets.

None of those things do either Ms. Giffords or the rest of us any good. Until we learn to respect each other and each other’s points of view on everything from religion and politics to butter versus margarine, we will neither grow nor grow up. It is not necessary that we agree, nor that we all like each other, though I admit it’s easier when we do.

I said—over and over—that I wasn’t doing New Year’s resolutions because goodness knows history shows I never keep them, but this is one I think I’ll work on. Instead of criticizing, I’m going to try requesting when I want something to be different, and maybe I’ll take a long look in the mirror while I’m at it.

Till next time.

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