“The place where I come from is a small town. They think so small, they use small words.”
~Peter Gabriel, Big Time
I’m currently trying to wrap my head around a Facebook conversation I had with some friends of mine.
The exchange—paraphrased for length—went like this:
Me: “Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t strike me as honest.”
Them: “Oh, right. Like Ford is telling the truth.”
Me: “I’m not talking about Dr. Ford, or what happened thirty years ago. I’m just focusing on his overall testimony. The way he presented himself doesn’t seem in line with what you’d expect out of an impartial judge.”
Them: “Who paid for her polygraph?”
Me: “Her lawyers, that’s not a secret. But, that’s not the point. Again, I’m not talking about Dr. Ford, or he said/she said, or what Kavanaugh is being accused of. I’m strictly focusing on his actions and words in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he lied about his yearbook and drinking habits and offered up conspiracy theories as stated facts.”
Them: “Her ‘witnesses’ won’t confirm her story.”
Me: “Actually, two of them say that while they cannot confirm her story, they still believe her. But, one more time, I am saying, emphatically, that whatever happened thirty years ago is not what I am discussing. I believe that, even if Dr. Ford’s memory is incorrect and Kavanaugh did not assault her, given his temperament and the way he acted during his testimony, I don’t think Kavanaugh is right for the Supreme Court.”
Them: “So he’s guilty before proven innocent. Got it.”
From there, I had to explain that Kavanaugh wasn’t “guilty,” because he wasn’t on trial. He was, however, in a job interview, and he spent that interview yelling, crying, belittling people, espousing conspiracy theories, and lying about his past.
I asked, “When was the last time you gave an interview like that and expected to get the job?”
The response was another attack on Dr. Ford.
The point is, we were obviously having two different conversations. I was focused on Brett Kavanaugh’s demeanor; my friends were focused on Dr. Ford’s accusation.
While I was able to answer their questions, I was unable to get them to change their focus. Even more frustrating is the fact that they didn’t even push back by saying they believed Kavanaugh would be a good member of the Supreme Court, or that they liked his testimony, or that they believed he was a man of good character.
That was a conversation I was more than willing to have.
Here’s the problem: my friends aren’t alone in their way of thinking. Far from it. They are surrounded by tens of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people who use belligerence to defend their wants. Our exchange is indicative of the communication problem America is having as a whole. Almost every back-and-forth I have with someone with an opposing belief seems to follow the same path. When they don’t like something, they deflect and dig in.
Which leaves me confused, because when I sit down to write out my thoughts in a post like this, I try to think through a problem and come to the most reasonable conclusion. In this case, the problem is: How do I get my point across, while listening to their viewpoint?
I don’t have an answer, and that frustrates me. I don’t know what the reasonable conclusion is when the blinders people wear are so narrow. How do you have a reasonable conversation with people who seem unequipped and unable to participate in them?
In 2017, Bill Maher said, “I know you real Americans hate being called stupid, but you gotta meet me halfway and stop being stupid.”
I laughed along with his studio audience, but I also wondered, when was the last time you insulted someone, and it helped change their mind on something?
I’m guessing never. No one has ever called you stupid, and you’ve in turn had a V8 moment and come around to their side of things.
That said, when talking reasonably doesn’t work, maybe insulting is all we have left.
Fear the future, because things can only get worse.
This note can be read as a companion piece to another bit of nonsense I wrote called The Company You Keep.
You can find longer, for-purchase word salads I’ve barfed up on my Amazon Author Page.
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