So yesterday, we watched the PBS documentary about Hamilton, and it was really fascinating. More than anything, something that stuck with me was this discussion of the perceived infallibility of totally fallible men and women. It’s so strange to me to look back on history and process that the founding fathers and mothers of our country were just regular, everyday people. Perhaps even stranger to think about their arguments, pettiness, inability to apologize, and so much more. They were just like us, minus the technological advancement, and like….”equal” rights and such. The idea of Hamilton and Burr continuing an argument via letters that were length and such, and a wound that festered to the point that it caused that fatal duel, as opposed to using the time to cool off, rethink, apologize, or reassess, is so strange to me. This historical twitter war happened not over seconds, but months! There was so much time for them to calm down and resolve their differences, and yet, they didn’t.
This puts into perspective, for me, my habit of being what I call a “keyboard warrior”. I will argue about things until the cows come home, especially on the internet. Sometimes, I feel it’s necessary, and I don’t think I’m totally wrong about that, but sometimes, is it really? It’s a hard judgement call to make, but how much of that tirade I so desperately want to unless on someone who is ignoring reality and facts (because I’m not going to pretend that, in many cases, this is going on) is really needed? Am I going to change their mind, or am I better off calmly stating “look, here are some sources, please read and think about it”. But then my question for myself is, what about issues where the reality faced by others is being written of or ignored. In short, where the majority is, for all intents and purposes, trying to gas-light the minority. If you don’t know what gas-lighting is, here is a really great, wikipedia article about it. I know, not scholarly and such, but it’s a pretty good explanation either way, this is a blog, not a term paper. I read this, and I think about inequality and injustice in our country and wonder how many people realize that this is exactly what they’re trying to do to people facing said injustice. It’s so odd to me. When someone says “This is what I experience” saying “no, you don’t” doesn’t make it not true, it just negates that person’s experience. You ignore them, you don’t change reality. Add to that our habit as a culture of explaining why the statement of injustice experienced can’t be true by saying “Well, I’m not racist/sexist/xenophobic/homophobic/islamiphobic/transphobic, but….” and capping that with “because I have black/women/gay/muslim/trans/insert other minority here friends”.
It doesn’t work that way. But is a word that negates everything before it. That’s actually how it functions in the English language. Your desire for that not to be true does not change the reality. (see how that works like that?) Every time I find myself wanting to start a sentence like that, I stop and think, is this something I actually want to say or is it something I need to sit with and think about why I feel the need to justify it? I’ve been trying to do that for a while in those situations, yet I find myself wondering if this needs to happen more often. When I’m ready to wade into a comment thread anywhere online, am I contributing to the vitriol and nonsense, or am I actually trying to actively make someone aware of something. If it’s the latter, does that actually serve a purpose, other than for the joy of getting to make someone be wrong? Am I trying to actively correct a common misconception, offer proof either of the argument made or the opposing argument, or add to the background knowledge of people already embroiled in what is possibly a heated argument or something that could become one? Am I likely to help or hurt my cause? I’ve never really thought about it, but I’m starting to feel that perhaps I should.
I can think of an example, I was browsing reddit (if you don’t know what it is, it’s basically a forum of forums that range in topics to include oh…well..like everything. It’s also potentially a massive time sink and a scary place.) and came across a thread of cartoons describing weird bible stories, that, while they are definitely weird, make sense in the context of the time and culture. So somethings were wrong, and I posted about how, while it’s still weird, here’s why it says this or here’s what it actually says. I was actually pleasant, and just went “still weird, but hey, here’s why” and folks were like “oh, cool, that’s actually kind of interesting.” And now that I think on it, I wonder how much more I could effectively discuss and potentially educate instead of being the “angry liberal” stereotype (I was accused just the other day…I didn’t know that was a thing….)
I do, at the same time, feel like it speaks of privilege I have that I can calmly discuss certain hot-button topics calmly and without ire, even if I feel angry about it, because I do not have to go through the things others are going through. It’s an odd place to be, and perhaps is overthinking more than anything. But at the same time, I wonder if it’s fair that I get to think about changing my tone to one that is acceptable to those who find certain issues to be untrue or just a concoction of the media, or if it is a situation where, yes, many people will say speak softly and carry a big stick, but the actions of the systems and institutions that have created and perpetuated these issues for generations are so loud that others can’t hear what is being said, especially by those suffering the most. That’s what I’m wondering about, if the idea that I must be infallible, sweet, soft-spoken, likable, kind, and potentially sanitize how I think and feel about something is really accurate to the Christian experience and, indeed, the American Experience.
As always, thank you for reading, feel free to comment, email, write, text, facebook, whatever, if you would like to talk to me about this, I’m always happy to discuss, listen, and wonder through life together! If you can, please donate. Information can be found on the “about” page of my blog.
Last but not least, and this one is for John Washburn, Nisha Dixon, and Graham Duncan (among others I’m sure)….