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This place matters

Thursday, October 25, 2018

De-escalate

Every day it seems like we hit a new bottom in the world of politics, a new "holy shit how is this even happening?" Couple weeks ago Brett Kavanaugh seemed like a travesty, but now we got the White House openly blaming the victims of pipe bomb attacks, despite, like, Trump's frequent endorsement of violence against reporters, the latest one a few days ago. And almost as awful, in my opinion, is the barely contained glee that liberals on social media seem to be expressing over the situation, the seeming victory lap they're running over everything they were warning about coming to fruition. These pipe bombs have just become the latest tool with which to bludgeon the other guy.
Meanwhile, one of these bombs could go off at any time. Meanwhile a copycat somewhere could see the havoc and decide they want in on the game. Some maniac's gonna decide to retaliate. And those theoretical pipe bombs aren't going to explode anywhere in the vicinity of a Clinton or a Trump, they're going to kill some poor lady in a USPS processing facility who has three grandchildren and is a week away from retirement. They're gonna dismember a kid walking past a mail truck. They're going to blow up some hero cop who puts herself in harm's way to protect others. And still the right will shriek "Lock her up" and still the left with post memes of Trump and Putin kissing, and still the right will blame the left and the left will blame the right and not one of those twats is gonna acknowledge their own role in fanning the flames of hatred and discord and violence.
Don't mistake this for a "blame on both sides" sort of argument. We're not the side with the Nazis and the Klan and openly racist rhetoric. This is a "someone has to be the rational adult" argument, and it's sure as hell not gonna be them.

So anyway, I was just thinking about some stuff I learned working at a group home for people with mental illness. And while I'm not diagnosing anybody with anything, you can't really deny that people who spend all day reposting wildly inaccurate memes and unsupported conspiracy theories aren't at least a little delusional. 
They say you should never argue with a delusion, because it only serves to make the delusion more entrenched and makes the person think you're part of the conspiracy. But you should also never indulge a delusion, for obvious reasons. A shrink once told me that his strategy was to ask questions that would help them discover the holes in their own logic. So like "It must be really scary to hear demon voices from your sink. I can't hear them though. Can your roommate hear them? What do you think it means if you're the only one who can hear them?" I don't know how that translates to convincing people who believe that George Soros and a migrant caravan did 9/11 and turned the frogs gay, I'll let you figure that out on your own.

So another thing I figured out working with troubled folk is that it is not possible to de-escalate a conflict by shouting louder than the person who is acting out. I guess the far right bad guys are already incredibly pissed - that's how they got so entrenched in this mentality in the first place. I know the fact that they're pissed isn't our problem and it sounds a lot like I'm saying that abused women should avoid abuse by being better wives, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that my plan going forward, when I try to engage hateful people, is to go in with a genuine desire to change their mind a little, rather than to be right. Because I'd prefer not to find out the next new bottom.
Let's see, what else did I learn working in group homes and such? If someone bites you, push into the bite rather than pulling away... that probably doesn't apply here. Nothing helps you find common ground like music and food. Kindness can be surprisingly contagious. Don't let people off the hook for being shitty to you, but also never let them see they got to you. Recognize the sacred in others, no matter how ensconced they are in profane. 



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