The commenter wrote:
“That doesn’t justify his cascading his crap onto everyone else, especially women.” Why especially women ? Why would it do less harm to a man ?
While he did indeed lift a sentence from my story, clearly Thomas had neither read, nor bothered to note, that there were multiple references to both sexes, to the general term people vs. women. That the sentence above referred to a highly specific story told to me by a friend, and the comment referred to the story’s protagonist’s habit of sexual abuse towards female coworkers, didn’t seem to occur. He was on a hunt for something to discredit.
He totally missed all the other obvious proof that the entire article was inclusive of males and females.
This is how we read with our bullshit blocking our view.
I penned a polite response to Thomas, and offered up a selection of quotes from the same article which illustrated my point. Which of course, he ignored, because to acknowledge that would mean that he’d have to concede the point to the person he’d gone after.
Then I looked at his profile, and his other posts, which were somewhat similar to those he made on my story. This guy has an issue with women. Women’s rights. Boy, has he.
Thomas also pounds the point about personal responsibility. Which, if he really believed in, meant that he would possess both the courtesy and cojones to own up to his mistake.
But hey, that’s just me.
Even in an article which was very carefully crafted to be inclusive of males and females, he managed to pull out one single sentence to piss on. Here’s that piece https://medium.com/@jhubbel/your-anger-is-your-problem-how-to-end-the-guilt-cycle-when-youre-recovering-from-abuse-yourself-c5f39dddcf8e.
You should try this with a Medium troller sometime. Boy is it instructive. This particular gentlemen was on the hunt for an argument he could win. Selecting small threads from larger contexts so that he could push his agenda. His cant was obvious. His cant created his “can’t see,” if you will.
This is why recent research has shown that being exposed to other views doesn’t change minds. If anything we may get even more entrenched (please see https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/opinion/sunday/twitter-political-polarization
When you and I wallow in our righteousness, which is borne of the deadly fear of being wrong (about anything, really) we learn nothing. We read, view, and experience selectively, automatically disregarding anything that challenges our world view.
What a holy terror of a life. What a prison.
The fear of being effectively challenged, proven wrong and shown to the world to be an idiot? It’s like cement shoes for our hearts, minds and bodies. This is how we exaggerate our fear of having to accept that someone with an opposing view, might, after all, have a point. So we drink only from those rivers of information which validate our world view. And remain woefully uniformed, unprepared and undignified when we take issue with others.
Witness our current Administration and all the attendant minions. Religious movements of all kinds and stripes. Any belief system to which people cling with the obsessions born of deep insecurity.
People’s inability to even countenance the notion that their views might be outdated, or incorrect, causes the kind of anger that we once used to save for genuinely important issues. Like, possibly, being against war, or providing education for our kids, or whatever topic we used to care about before we got co-opted by our inability-or unwillingness- to be educated. Exposed to new and different ideas.
Let’s be clear: this kind of lunacy isn’t limited to a particular political party. It’s a universal ailment, infecting Left, Right, Green, Obscene and everything else. Whoever has the mike at any time loves to accuse the other side of being morons. For not “getting it,” whether it’s about Flat Earth or climate change or the coming End of Days or the Rapture or the Revolution or whatever the hell someone is banging a tin drum about.
Plenty has been written- far better than I can pen- about how we have become selective about what we read online. How we can block out all opposing views, and how that affects who and what we become. Whom we elect. How that affects society, and the attendant dangers. Gab.com is a prime example of such a site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gab_(social_network).
One of the gifts from writing on Medium.com includes comments. I often hear from folks whose politics don’t agree with mine. This is an opportunity, should I choose to go down this path, to explore, learn and listen. I often do. And I work my backside off to keep my words civil and respectful. While I don’t often change my mind, this does change my understanding. That changes my appreciation of how folks come to a way of thinking.
That’s grace. It’s respect. And my mental geography just expanded.
When and if someone gets mean or ugly because I won’t change my mind, then they get blocked. After that point, there’s no point at all. You’re not involved in a hearty exchange. More like a horse-whipping.
However, engaging in exchanges which allow us to explore alien territory- other views in this case- seems to terrify folks whose closely-held beliefs define them completely.
A dear friend of mine from the Netherlands, a fellow world traveler but half my age, commented to me last year that in her country, people are expected to have an opinion. About everything, apparently.
Her observation about Americans is our compulsion to say I AM.
I AM conservative, liberal, libertarian, etc.
I AM a Christian, Moslem, Jew, etc.
I AM a (fill in your job here)
I AM an American, a patriot, an Hispanic, a Black, a Lesbian, whatever labels we believe give us power.
If you strip away these I AMs, then I AM nobody. Nothing.
Doesn’t matter that the stripping away of all these labels actually offers us the chance to be someone devoid of labels. Our own person, as it were. To be curious and open and willing to explore. To self-actualize without the burden of bullshit.
This caused me to consider the compulsion we have to identify with a tribe, rather than to think through our thoughts, decisions, and have a take.
A take is malleable. Given more life, experience and perspective, our take tends to take on new forms. We change over time -that is unless we’re serious basement dwellers- and often we may discover that in fact, what we thought we knew, we kinda didn’t.
Why this is so scary to people is beyond my ken.
Here’s a fun story- and it’s fun because nobody got hurt in the process. I was living with my fireman buddy for a few years in Durango. During that time I heard him make the claim that “no woman can do fifty men’s pushups.” Look, I like my friend, but I do sixty of them daily. DAILY. I bet him a hundred bucks I could. He grinned. We shook on it.
So one day we’re both at the gym and I call him over to the mirrored section. Hit the floor, and told him to count. By the time I’d hit forty and showed no signs of slowing down, my bud had some serious worry on his face. I did my fifty, leapt up and slapped him on the shoulder.
“You owe me, buddy,” I grinned at him.
That Christmas his gift was my forgiveness of his IOU. He never, ever questioned me again. And over the years, what I’ve seen is that his attitudes about women (which came from his family) have vastly expanded. You don’t hear him make those kinds of comments any more. He’s seen otherwise. Hired badass female firefighters. This is how we change, if we want to.
For my part, each time I choose to eradicate some ignorance through experience, travel, exposure and reading, that expands both my world and my (very limited) understanding of what I see in it.
Of course I have my own blinders on. Of course I suffer from many of the same limitations. What I hope helps me along is that I know those blinders and opinions are there. When I hear something that challenges me, that’s usually the first sign that there’s a lesson to be learned. I may not like it but that’s not anyone else’s problem. If I stay open, I learn to see. I may not agree, but I can see. Sometimes that makes all the difference.
For others, this seems to be monumentally threatening.
This is what gives rise to the Professional Angry Troll.
Here’s what Time had to say about it, an ancient three years ago: http://time.com/4457110/internet-trolls/
A fellow Medium writer, @Jessica Valenti, is mentioned in this article. Her five year-old-daughter was threatened with rape. She’s a powerful writer. Her material is a magnet for hate, fear and viciousness. However, Medium has, for me at least, been a haven. Since joining in April 2018, I’ve been trolled perhaps five or six times. Given the tens of thousands of views of my material, I’ll take those odds any day. However I am not as outspoken (or as good) a writer as Valenti.
For those of you searching for some ideas on how to handle online assholes (and others who have the bad form of showing up in our lives as such) I can offer this: https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Robert_I_Sutton_The_Asshole_Survival_Guide?id=AQAAAIC8nRodtM. Sutton has several books out on the topic. Might be valuable reading. After all, I suspect that the next census will have to include Asshole as a separate category. After all it seems that we now have millions of them. Moved in from planet Ur-ANUS.
(OKAY OKAY, my apologies to all, I couldn’t help myself)
However let’s be clear. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t make them an asshole. Your attacking, berating and demeaning them for it makes YOU one.
Those rare (thank you) people who have trolled me on Medium.com fall into this angry little thing under the bridge category. They feed off anger, irritation, and the overreactions from those of us who feel threatened by disagreement.
By reading their comments, you can see their take. Where they are entrenched. They don’t ask clarifying questions. They’re not interested in understanding. They want a punching bag. A place to proselytize.
A dear friend has a husband who falls into this category. He believes in racial profiling. Hates immigrants. Is a virulent NRA member. Has great difficulty with my more middle of the road views. When he’s had too many beers he launches into some ugly diatribes.
However we share a military background. We are deeply bonded in powerful ways which make conversation between us not only civil but fun. I’m a guest at their house every Christmas, and we dearly love each other. His views- many of which I disagree with quite vehemently-don’t make him who he is. He’s a kind, generous man who loves his family.
I have learned a lot from him. In ways that he would never, ever admit to, he’s learned from me as well. Those shifts that have happened over two decades of friendship have graced us both.
This is how we learn to get along. We don’t all have to agree. We don’t all have to validate each other’s world view. We don’t have to all believe the same thing, although by writing that I have likely offended a great many religious people.
Well too bad.
If learning something new threatens you, then you’re in for a very difficult existence.
Those viewpoints that challenge our world view are critical to our growth. They are gifts. I am wrong a lot. A great deal, in fact. That’s a very good thing. Because if I weren’t I wouldn’t be trying.
I’d be trolling.
My heartfelt thanks to those fellow Medium writers who do not agree with me but offer me the sacred gift of their differing opinions, presented with courtesy, from which I learn and learn to value with great respect. You and I may never align. But I will absolutely, positively and in every regard respect your views. Even more so, the way in which you’ve offered them.
I donned a military uniform to protect our right to differ. But I don’t support the right to demean, diminish, or deal out death sentences to those with whom we don’t agree.
That’s called civil discourse. For my part, it’s about taking the blinders off. Not the gloves.