I got a private message a couple of days ago from someone who was really mad at me because I wasn't mad at someone else. Yes, we have reached the point in life now that people are offended by your personal level of offense to someone else.
This was a case of me commenting on a post by a friend on Facebook. The post was public so my response then showed up in the feed of my friends along with the original post. The original post was an angry one with the phrase, "Just die already" or something close to that. It was speaking about the president so the person that sent me the private message was insulted that it was said at all and really mad at me that I didn't call out the OP for the phrase.
Get all that?
So here is why I didn't. First off, I've already had the discussion with the OP that I don't approve of such rhetoric. And I don't. I don't wish death on anyone. It's not my way. But I also understand the OP. I understand the level of anger and frustration they feel on a daily basis right now. See the things that this administration is set on doing and undoing directly affect their life and even more importantly the life of one of their children. Healthcare is this big political football and it's tossed around with very cavalier attitudes by people with great coverage. You have a current sitting president who has said that he wants our current system to fail and fall apart. Do you understand what that means to someone with catastrophic health issues? It means bankruptcy or worse, death. So my friend who has a child with serious lifelong health issues and who before the ACA would have fallen in to the pre-existing conditions gap AND would have already hit the lifetime benefits cap before they've even lost all of their baby teeth, has serious issues with the man. Because effectively the president has said, Just die already. Follow that? It's not a hypothetical for this family. It's life or death. Literal life or death. Not hyperbole. Not a figure of speech. Not these kids today...but without good health care their child dies and the President of the United States has no fucks to give about it.
So yeah, we've talked about it, and though I would never use the same phrase I understand the anger and the hurt and the pain behind it. And if someone were trying to hurt my child? I'd probably forget my higher intentions and words mean things and have power stance and I would say that and worse. Because when the hypothetical becomes personal things change. And the bottom line is I am more concerned with their actual pain than I am with how they express it. And I think that is a piece that is missing in a lot of our discussions.
We get so wrapped up in how people are protesting that we pay no attention to why they are protesting. We get so mad at how people are expressing themselves that we don't listen to what they are trying to say. We get distracted by poor spelling and excessive punctuation and completely miss the message they are trying to get across.
And then we even take it a step further and try to decide what people are PROBABLY saying instead of paying attention to what they are ACTUALLY saying. You see that right now with the kneeling in the NFL. No matter how many times it's repeated what the actual protest is about people bring in the troops. Nobody is protesting the troops. And even if you don't agree with what they are saying, could you try listening to why they are saying it?
I have friends who are police and friends who are very supportive of the police and most of them will not for one second entertain the idea that there is an issue in our police system. It's personal for them and they feel they are being attacked. I get it. It's hard to hear. But people aren't saying you are bad, they are saying there are people who do the same job that you do that are bad. And we need to fix that issue. There are studies out that show most complaints about police come down to a small handful of officers. The whole a few bad apples analogy. But the thing with that analogy is that it's a few bad apples spoils the barrel. You have to remove the bad apples. You cannot defend all of the good apples and ignore the bad ones thinking that solves the problem. And right now we see a circling of the wagons to defend all the apples and the rotten ones keep going. I recently read an article that talked about how even officers that are suspended due to behavior get put back on the force because of the union rules. Bad apples turning in to bad pennies that keep showing up. This is a problem. And if you are a good and shiny apple this should deeply deeply offend you because they are making you look bad.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you have to agree with everyone. Please, perish the thought. I'm just suggesting you try and understand why they feel what they do before you argue with them. And that you actually understand what THEY think, not what YOU think they think. There are people I've listened to, that I understand why they feel the way they do, and that I never will speak with again because what they truly believe is deeply offensive to me. So see, I'm not saying we all have to agree, or we all have to think the same things, or even that you have to have compassion for everyone, I'm saying you should make an effort to understand why people feel the way they do. Why they are acting out or speaking up. And then decide what that means to you. How you handle it.
Can you look at a problem without taking it personally? Can you hear an issue without immediately trying to defend yourself or someone close to you? Can you take a second to take in information before you are formulating your answer? Basically are you listening to hear and understand or listening to get your chance to talk? You never have to agree but you should always try to understand as much as you can.
This is going to dovetail in to another blog soon about empathy and I will probably repeat myself in that one, but I wanted to get this out right now since it was a fresh rebuke for me. I was not offended at what I was supposed to be offended by because someone else was offended at the offense of another...