“They wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped them on the face at high noon in Times Square!”
We live in a world where what we doubt most is other people’s vision of the truth. They keep saying things that we, for some reason, see as wildly wrong, biased, inaccurate or stupid.
Maybe what they are saying runs against our fundamental beliefs, our deeply held understanding of how the world works.
Maybe they have a history of inconsistency, seeming to say whatever will get them what they want in the moment, and then never taking responsibility for what they said in the past.
Maybe we sense they are selling something, something we fear, so we end up fearing that they are just saying whatever to manipulate us in a venal, evil way.
Maybe we see them as brainwashed by ingesting too much biased propaganda for too long, so much that it has poisoned their judgement.
It really doesn’t matter why we think someone else isn’t telling the truth, what matters is what we do about it.
We may try to share another view, working to find common ground. The problem with this approach is that if they believe we are twisting the truth, they won’t find us credible, won’t honestly & openly engage us.
With enough frustration, we end up just trying to silence them. We can do that inside ourselves, just not listening because we have discounted their veracity.
Most often, though, that isn’t enough. Their twisted tales are just feel too annoying, too destructive, too horrible, too evil to let them exist in the world.
At that moment, we go negative and decide to attack them in an effort to silence them, to stop others from listening to them, try to destroy any standing or credibility they may have by finding destructive ways to devalue and dehumanize them.
This cycle of deciding that whatever others say must be a disgusting, manipulative lie and therefore feeling the need, the right, the entitlement, the moral imperative to destroy and silence them is at the heart of the corruption of public discourse, the demolishing of respect and grace in the world today.
It seems so much easier to create enough noise to silence our critics than do do the actual hard work of addressing their points and finding common, shared effective ground. Rather than doing the right thing to actually win, we just have to do the nasty things that cripple others and make them lose.
Everywhere I look, I see the horrible destructive cost of a polarized discourse, no longer civil, that takes the morality of destroying other people to silence them down to the lowest levels. This bullying is now identified as holy and sanctified by those who claim that they are warriors of good just out to smite the evil that others speak.
How do I engage the credibility of an elected leader who won his place by twisting, ignoring and destroying, rather than by putting personal morality, values and record on the line?
I many know that if I want people to engage my vision of our shared world, I have to be open to engaging theirs. That is, for me, part of the golden rule, what is hateful to me, do not do onto others. It is, also part of my commitment to transformation, being like Shaw’s tailor, without prejudgment measuring each anew in this moment.
I’m a marginalized, queer iconoclastic & theological shaman. I know the price of being mocked, humiliated, shamed and abused by those who want to silence me, even at the cost of dehumanizing me past all dignity & respect. I know how it feels when groups try to crush individual voices, when identity politics and mass mentality work to impose a blinkered normativity on the beautiful human rainbow.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t see, over time, the twists, venality and cruelty of others when they try to destroy voices and people who challenge their beliefs.
Battling it out for truth, with only the biggest, most persuasive claims being dominant and “true” is the mark of the fascist, the bully, the one who needs tp manipulate truth by leaving the crocks in it unchallenged. Bashing is the act of a scaredy cat.
Healthy means challenged. Healthy keeps respect for diversity, knowing that the humans can’t just be divided up into simple groups, letting the ones who don’t fit fall through the cracks.
The way we start being allies, advocates for each other, always, always starts with the deep understanding that the experiences, perspectives and choices are another reflect their truth. That truth may come from a can or from hard lessons, but it always reflects something we hold inside, be that based in love or in fear.
Civility is always based on listening to one another, on what we share, rather than on what divides us. Separation is a tool for manipulation, cutting ourselves off from what we would rather not face, while connection is always a demand for growth & healing, for finding ways to open up our understanding & respect. Knee-jerk reactions push away, while considered responses gather the best of what we find, even if that best is surprising (and has a touch of the divine.)
Feeling disenfranchised, alienated, marginalized, devalued and erased is powerful and upsetting. It becomes easy to stand for others who tell you that your pain is all because of those people, the ones who are taking your birthright while they mock everything that you hold dear.
Truth is hard, shimmering, multi-faceted, and often apparently contradictory. Your own feelings of not being heard, though, are sharp and immediate, especially if you believe that you should have the privilege of being seen as the power player, the real authority in the room. Using those feelings to justify smiting those who offer contrary positions can feel great, even if it just shuts down any opportunity for real engagement, for growth & healing. “They are the problem and until they comply with our demands, they are worthy of any attack we can muster!”
The fight for better & brighter is always good, but not when it just pits one belief against another. It is the integrating, melding, combining of the best we can find that leads to real, lasting innovation, leads to better working conditions. Competition within teams is fine as long as everyone is on board that it is team wins we are looking for, not some kind of libertarian destruction of enemies.
Coming together with openness beyond our own pain is only possible if we respect shared humanity. Trying to find common ground with those who just want to erase us as liars, who refuse to be challenged on their own inconsistencies and inaccuracies, well, that often feels like more work than any individual can handle over a lifetime.
I know how to be responsible for me, my thoughts and my feelings, but how can I engage with people who only feel under threat, who feel totally justified in working to destroy me by viciously casting me as damaged, corrupt, sick and not credible?
As long as others want to believe that silencing a contrary voice does something more than delay finding better, even as it tears apart the bonds of continuous common humanity we so desperately need, then sadness & wickedness shall reign.
In a world where we deny others their own truth for our comfort & convenience, trying to impose the ideas we cling to, the way we believe the world should be, the more we are unable to accept and embrace the way things are. And the more we do that, the more broken we and the systems we enforce become.