By Kevin Stoda, Missouri
According to Heidi Burgess, “Social conflicts often involve some misunderstanding. Parties in conflict communicate by what they say (or do not say) and how they behave toward each other. Even normal interaction may involve faulty communication, but conflict seems to worsen the problem. When two people are in conflict, they often make negative assumptions about “the other.” Consequently, a statement that might have seemed innocuous when two parties were friends might seem hostile or threatening when the same parties are in conflict.”
Burgess goes on to state in an essay entitled “Misunderstandings” that “[a]ll communication has two parts: a sender and a receiver. The sender has a message he or she intends to transmit, and s/he puts it in words, which, to her/him, best reflect what s/he is thinking. But many things can intervene to prevent the intended message from being received accurately.”
I was struck by the importance of using the proper and most functional or appropriate tools in communicating one’s message this week as American observed that the noxious“ Runaway” General McChrystal was forced to bail-out-early in the war and on his troops in Afghanistan. (Was McChrystal just trying to get fired—and skip-out-of-Dodge, i.e. before things turn worse in Afghanistan? Or was he a fool in doing those interviews?)
Also, this past week, I recalled Burgess’ words and reflected on how easily it is to be misunderstood in the heightened political environment in America (i.e. culture wars and tea-party politics) upon my arrival to a small Missouri town where my mother lives.
The very first day in town, I had quickly observed that there was a nearby home with a 20-foot-flag-pole set at half-mast. I wondered “Why?”
As I took my mother’s dog for a walk each day past the flag, I was forced to continue to ponder what message this apparently-very-patriotic American was trying to convey with his flag at half mast. I enquired of neighbors and soon learned that the flag had been at half for quite some time.
I thought, “Could the man who flies the flat at half mast be anti-Obama? i.e. and be in mourning, like those who still don’t recognize Obama as our duly elected president?”
On the other hand, I asked myself, Could the owner of the flag at half mast be the opposite? Perhaps he is mourning America being in wars so far from our shores and wasting tax payers money on rich banks?”
I thought, “A Flag-at-Half-Mast represents mourning. Mourning is good at times, but now, in our nation’s history, we need to move beyond mourning and act to change and improve things.”
Finally, yesterday morning, I walked with the dog once again by the house with the flag at half mast and saw a tall but aging fellow in the garage.
I told myself, “Enough of my just guessing at the old man’s intentions at flying his American flag each day at half-mast. I needed to stop making assumptions and get to the root of the message.”
Well, the gracious older American (neighbor) explained, “Well the part of the mast is broken at the top. However, I can get up their to fix it. The flag just doesn’t go any higher.”
I say it is high time that Americans stop all the misunderstandings and false assumptions (and other misunderstandings) leading to hostilities this hot summer of 2010. Sitting down and talking to your neighbors and start repairing our flag poles (and fences) and rotting infrastructure is a great place to start, eh?
That is as direct as I want to be right now.
What do you think we can otherwise do as citizens of peace (and of a relatively free land) to make our country and our world to function and communicate better this year—and this decade?
We sure are not going to solve our problems by waiving our dirty laundry, like General McChrystal did, are we?