I owe Rep. Michael Simpson an apology.
Last week at an event, while he was giving a speech, I interrupted with a rude, sarcastic comment. I don’t normally heckle speakers, and I’m not sure what possessed me to choose that moment to react with frustration and without thinking — although that’s not an excuse for my behavior.
The comment I made wasn’t insightful, and it certainly didn’t add to the conversation in any meaningful way. In fact, I had a different question, much more to the point, which could easily have been respectfully asked during the Q&A portion.
I’m sorry, Rep. Simpson, for my rude interruption. I shouldn’t have done it.
In the week since the incident, I’ve thought a lot about my behavior. In fact, it’s caused me a lot of shame and personal embarrassment. As one of Rep. Simpson’s team pointed out, for the most part, I value civil discussion, and my action was a betrayal of that personal value. We all sometimes lash out in anger and frustration. Often the targets aren’t even the source of frustration, as Rep. Simpson wasn’t even my main source of frustration that day.
My experience offers a good reminder for me to take a step back and think before I speak (or post on social media). There are times when I speak or post without thinking — and I always regret those times, like the regret I have for interrupting last week’s event and immediately anger-posting on Facebook.
Unfortunately, in the present political climate, my knee-jerk reaction isn’t all that unusual. Sometimes, when someone with whom we disagree is speaking, we pick out the things we think we’re hearing and respond to those items. We might not even be truly listening. I know I wasn’t listening as attentively as I should have been last week and reacted to the wrong things. Even if I’d been reacting to the right things, my rude comment was uncalled for, so it’s even worse that I was reacting to the wrong things.
What would make this world a better place — and help us accomplish more — is a greater understanding of each other. Yes, there are substantial disagreements, both about what needs to be done and how to do it. But there is also plenty that we all have in common, and there are ways to compromise to bring about outcomes that provide greater opportunities to more people.
Our current climate is one that has moved away from the values of listening and compromise, and these are skills we need to work to develop again if we expect to restore civility to our public discourse and find workable solutions to some of the challenges we face.
I briefly forgot that last week. But this week, and in the coming weeks, I hope to move forward and continue to improve and progress as a better listener — and in more productive ways of expressing myself.
Miranda Marquit is the chairwoman of the Bonneville County Democratic Party.