Voices on Violence
6:59 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Love NOLA: When It Comes To Violence, Are We Listening?

A recent study found that the average American hears 100,000 words per day. That's a lot of Tweets! With so much information swirling around us, is it any wonder that Americans may have forgotten the fine art of actually listening to what we hear? Here is a case for listening — to the voices surrounding one of our city's most pressing issues.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between hearing someone and listening to them.

We hear, and see, and do a lot every day. A University of California study found that Americans typically multi-task our way through 11.8 hours of information each day. We half-listen to the radio while we half-talk on the phone, half-Tweet, half-check email and half-wait for the GPS to tell us where to make our next turn. 

Wait. That’s three too many halves. 

Exactly.

We hear a lot, but are we actually listening? And what are we listening for?

To be told what we already know? Or is there any room in the gridlocked hard drive of our minds to actually consider a new idea? One that completely contradicts a long held opinion or belief?

These may seem like mountainous questions when you consider some of the molehill aspects of our daily lives. I mean, who cares if, despite reading a stellar review this morning, you still refuse to return to a certain restaurant because you had an awful meal there… 3 years ago.

But what about the more pressing issues of our lives? The ones that really are mountains.

What about violence? When it comes to violence in our city, isn’t it time to step out of our comfort zones, to put away our pre-conceived boxes of this demographic group and that one, to set aside our neighborhood — and political — feuds and actually listen to what each other is saying?

This week, we’re going to give you that chance to listen, through a series called Voices on Violence.  Produced with our partner NolaVie, Voices on Violence lets everyday New Orleanians bring their everyday voices to the seemingly everyday instance of violence.

Working on this series has taught me a lot about hearing and listening.

It’s taught me about the lingering effects of murder on a woman whose son was killed two years ago. A woman who still has mornings when she has to call in sick because her heart is so heavy she literally cannot get up off the couch. A woman whose co-workers only hear that she’s taking a day off to sit in front of the TV, because they cannot find the space to listen to the anguish of a mother whose heart is still broken.

It’s taught me how hard it is to ask yourself why somebody is pushing your buttons, as happened when a Metairie woman reached out to say that she is so beaten down by story after story after story on crime in New Orleans that she’s thinking of selling the house her kids grew up in and moving away.

I heard her, but I did not want to listen. I did not want to listen because, behind the buttons she was pushing, were the same words she spoke. Words that were whispering in my own mind, my own heart: Maybe it is time to leave.

I don’t know. I’m still listening.

To read a related article written by Brett Will Taylor, visit Nolavie.com.