Thursday, March 28, 2013

Do you hear what I hear?

Since my last post I've had a number of conversations with friends about the brouhaha created by Michelle Shocked's statements at Yoshi's on 3/17 and the ensuing drama on twitter and national internet news.  I've been a bit taken aback because when I listened to the bootleg recording from the audience I heard something so different from everyone else.  They all heard her being intentionally hateful.  They all heard her being intentionally mean.  I already shared what I heard in my last post. The interesting thing is that a couple of these conversations were with friends who are professional journalists and they are as knee jerk as everyone else.

For me that's a sign of the times - journalism has evolved into expression of opinions rather than asking questions.

Granted Ms. Shocked is not making things easier for people to understand since she will only communicate, and cryptically at that, on twitter which gives you 140 characters. Not the best venue for coherent communication, but she's on her own journey with this experience.

What's been coming up for me on a macro level is how in this age of so many options for communication we seem to be mis-communicating more often than not.

In college my major was speech/communications and this was way before technology became such an overwhelming variable in the field.  I would imagine that it's astoundingly interesting to study how we communicate these days - the research is probably incredible.  Still the basics are foundational and what I remember as a most basic concept was that in any given dyad (2 people = smallest group), there are multiple points of view, or experiences.

When we talk to each other, there is what we intend to say, what we actually say and what the other person hears.  That's like six experiences in any given dyadic conversation. 

Myself, I get really knee jerky when I listen to the rhetoric on the political right.  I also get twitchy when I hear any kind of fundamentalist religious proselytizing.  I am dismissive and and punitive and rejecting.  To be honest I am rude and disrespectful, something I rationalize by my belief that "they don't know what they're talking about and they are stupid to believe what they believe."  I also rationalize it because in the case of Ann Coulter and Fred Phelps and their ilk, there is a level of hate speech, name calling and massive disrespect for anyone who isn't on their team - but what they do is what I just admitted to doing.

I don't ask any questions about why they believe what they believe.  They don't ask questions about the people who they are attacking.

Is this because we don't care?  Is it because we don't know how?  Why is it seemingly unimportant to understand where someone is coming from? and why they come from there?

Because they talk crazy? Well, yeah, in my opinion.  That and me getting all knee jerky and wanting to punch them in the neck.  Seriously, every time Ann Coulter gets something thrown at her I am doing a happy dance inside (self aware intentional meanness on my part).

But here's the other thing I am aware of - inside I am going to where I perceive them to be.  When Ann Coulter is calling people "retards" and Fred Phelps and his family are screaming hate speech on the news - emotionally I jump into anger and rage and helplessness and frustration, "NO YOU ARE".  They win.  I might not agree with a word they are saying, but I go right to where they are living their lives from in reaction to it.

Trust me when I tell you that this doesn't do me any good and it certainly doesn't provide any kind of counter balance energetically.  I think that there needs to be discussion about what comes up and why, I just can't find very many people who want to have that conversation.  My fundamentalist family members fall back on their script so I just move to "I love you but I don't agree with you," because that's true. My friends who are Republicans also stay on script. This is true for my friends on the left.

In so many ways it's like critical thinking doesn't enter into any of this at all.

Last week I listened to the funny and awesome Margaret Cho and Jim Short on their Monsters of Talk podcast - I love this show because it's like you are getting to eavesdrop on two really funny people talking honestly about stuff without an agenda.  Kind of like they're sitting on the couch having snacks and shooting the shit and you are a fly on the wall.  When they got to the part about Michelle Shocked there was discussion about how Margaret felt about Michelle's music and what it meant to her growing up queer.  Who she thought Michelle was and how that made her feel.  She shared about being chased and threatened for being a dyke and she explained that the statements that were made at Yoshi's were so hurtful because someone she had thought of as an ally, was now saying that God hates her.

Probably a lot of people had that experience last week and it's really sad.

I'm trying to stop reacting and ask more questions, but it's a challenge.  There's a reactive mean girl inside of me that would like to kick the Fred Phelps folks in the balls and she's co-existing with the more enlightened wise woman who tries to roll more like Jesus and see the love in all people and things no matter what they are saying and doing that is the opposite.

I truly do believe that in all things the power of love - cliche, I know, but true, so true - can overcome any obstacle.  It is profoundly powerful, but for some reason a tough place to live from all the time.  The Dalai Lama seems to have it down, but I think he spends a tremendous amount of time meditating and being in the moment. 

I aspire to be more like him but honestly it depends on the day.  The wise woman who knows what's true and can see love no matter what is having more days than not, which is good because the mean girl is unattractive and unpleasant.

And here I could write something really snarky about Ann Coulter's appearance, but the wise woman just put the mean girl on time out.

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