Heavy-chested: High-Passion, Low-Logic Politics

Recently, a friend and I were having a conversation about politics….kinda’. The discussion was more about the ways that what our parents called the civil rights movement has started to sprout branches and become what we call the “social justice movement” complete with its own “warriors.”

That conversation grew legs and we began to talk about how the modern social justice movement seems to change its rules every single day without rhyme or reason leaving all of us with the little red laser dot square on our foreheads so that on Monday, you can be a social justice darling and by Wednesday, the same people who elevated you, are calling for your head.

For all the good that today’s social justice movement is doing and aims to do in the future, I can’t help but notice that it’s heavy-chested. By heavy-chested, I mean that it is full of passion but light on logic. This lack of logic isn’t only observed in the individual merits of each particular ask, but also in how any perceived breach is addressed.

Commonly, the claim is made that this is all about respect. Nobody has to agree with your point of view but they must respect your right to feel that way and your humanity. But, in the thick of things, when those points of view are challenged, it’s not uncommon for a mob to be unleashed, equipped with insults and think pieces about why this varying opinion is sure to help hasten the coming apocalypse.

The most recent example of this is Chimamanda Adichie. When asked by an interviewer about her thoughts on transwomen, Adichie gave a very balanced answer. She noted, in part, that natal women have different experiences than transwomen who lived at least a part of their life as boys/men and experienced life in that way. Of course, the mob was summoned ASAP and she and her comments were labeled “transphobic” amongst other things.

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If your first reaction to her comment was to call her or her comment “transphobic,” you are probably one of those people who are all romance but little thought. If we examine what she said with our brain, we see nothing but truth: someone who has lived their entire life as a woman will indeed have a different experience than someone who lived a part of their life as a male. Someone who has been thin their whole life will have a different experience than someone who has been overweight their whole life. Someone who grew up middle class will have a different experience than someone who grew up below the poverty line. These statements are not hatred or bigotry. They are not ignorance. They are not –phobic or –ist. They are logical conclusions. There isn’t an essay, think piece, or “dragging” committee that will change that.

We may not like what logical statements imply. They may make us uncomfortable or hurt our feelings; but what is, is. You are well within your rights to listen and read everything with your heart if you choose, but I posit that in doing so, you’re setting yourself up for a ride on the emotional rollercoaster to your personal hell.

This modern movement is purportedly predicated on truth but it seems that in many cases, the closer someone gets to the truth, the faster the blades on the outrage machine spin. But, the modern social justice movement isn’t the only place this emotion-laden approach is taking over. As a self-described Centrist or a member of what I’ve heard called the “thinking Left,” I’ve observed both sides of the spectrum become increasingly zealous up to the point of complete imprudence and/or delusion in expressing their world views (ie. “alt-right”).

My theory is that when the truth doesn’t fit the narrative, it’s much easier to take off that thinking cap and pluck those heartstrings to lull themselves into obtuseness instead. Unfortunately, I don’t see how a strong movement can operate that way for as long as it takes to reach its goals.

What happened to balance?

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I know that people may find it hard to believe, but your views can be questioned or challenged without there being a malevolent underbelly. Someone can disagree with you and simultaneously wish you no harm at all. It’s possible to have distinct solutions to a common problem without any of those solutions being inherently evil. It’s possible to be friends with people whose solutions differ from your own. It’s possible to solve common problems without extremism in either direction. There’s no need to block a friend of 5 years at the direction of your fellow SJW who saw where they “liked” something “problematic.”

It is often said that the goal is a seat at the table. Even if the goal is to destroy the table and start over, that’s going to require a cogent foundation upon which to build.

By the way, someone somewhere read this and is mad that I used the word “natal” in the 5th paragraph.

Something to chew on.

Are You or Aren’t You? My Questions About Open Letters

Open letters.

You see them often. A random customer berates another random customer for being fat and ordering a milkshake. A parent’s child wasn’t invited to the birthday party because they wear glasses. A staunch Conservative makes fun of a patron for using food stamps at WalMart. You name it, you can find it. Even celebrities choose to air each other out in public prose. Open letters are the tools by which people on the receiving end of anything they consider abuse become Paul the Apostle within 24 hours and compose the most erudite and heart-wrenching letters you’ve ever read to someone 99.9997% of us will never know (and the writer usually doesn’t know either).

Open letters, for me, have always been a little like a soap opera treatment. They are constructed for the voyeur in all of us. And while I respect people’s right to chastise strangers in writing on the World Wide Web, I also find open letters a little confusing.

For example, most open letters come on the heels of someone being “shamed;” fat-shamed, poverty-shamed, height-shamed, French fry-shamed. It doesn’t matter. Pick one. Person A is “shamed” by person B for some reason and instead of Person A just putting Person B in their place in the moment, Person A decides to recap the event for all of us on their Facebook page and then put Person B in their place.

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The confusing part for me is this: if Person B “shamed” you in public, why would you write a letter and tell all of us what happened? Wouldn’t that only further the shame? I mean, when Person B shamed you your only audience was the 20 other patrons in the immediate area. Now, 99373999873 of us know that you busted the last pair of jeans in the largest size at Target while you were in the dressing room. The former, you can live down in 20 minutes. The latter, especially if it goes viral, will cause you to re-live that moment over and over again for at least two weeks. Are you ashamed or not?

The next question I have is what people who write open letters hope to accomplish. Do you want the random person who “shamed” you for using real cream instead of soy milk at Starbucks to see your open letter, remember they’re the rude prick you’re talking about and then release their own open letter apologizing to you? Do you hope that your letter will thrust the person into deep introspection? I can guarantee you that 1) you were probably one of 5 people they did that to that week, 2) they had the same two minutes you had to tell them off in person to forget that they were rude to you, and 3) 99% of the time, they don’t actually care and would probably do it again.

Is your goal to let the rest of us know that there are people out there who are rude, judgmental, inappropriate, or just standard issue assholes? Well, most of us who have passed the age of 14 already know that. In fact, many of us are related to those people and what you experienced once at Forever 21 happens to others on a regular basis.

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Perhaps, it’s the attention that lures people to bring 988277492 screen names into their beef. I happen to feel that it’s hard to shame someone for something that they own as a part of who they are. With that said, people who write open letters clearly haven’t made it to that stage. I may be wrong, but my theory is that though they are still struggling, the prospect of finally having even 20% of the 98727582746 people who will read their open letter come to their defense against a nameless bully makes them feel a tad better about their Achilles heel.  Plus, these days, people will do anything for 15 minutes of internet fame (even if they claim to be embarrassed by it).

In the future, I’d like to see the assholes strike first. I look forward to the day when I can read a viral open letter from the person who did the “shaming.” That would be a pre-emptive strike I wouldn’t mind seeing. It sure as hell promises to be a lot more interesting.