I'm kind of wincing at my own title. You know STORY is my favorite thing in the whole world. You know I'm all about the importance of stories
and trying to separate the word "myth" from the concept of "falsehood
." Story helps us give meaning to our existence. But we also sometimes use it to justify what we WANT to be true, even when it isn't. It's funny that this was a major theme in this season of Sherlock
, too. I'd like to share my thoughts on that, sometime before it becomes too far past to be relevant. I'm also working on two different GeekMom articles at once (possibly three. Come Monday, if I don't get any more time to myself to type before then, definitely three). I also have (as usual, but at the same time worse than usual) a complete wreck of a house to deal with, a bunch of Christmas decor to put away, and a whole lot of commitments taking me out of the house, not to mention the day to day commitments of a family that somehow expects I should feed them everyday (even though they don't like much of anything I cook for them). There is SO MUCH I have to work on, and I haven't even mentioned settling back to do the final handsewing on my new butterfly brocade dress
while watching the series of Soundbreaking
I finally managed to get hold of, because that's pure leisure time.
But I digress. (Often). I really want, right here right now, to address current events, yet again. We are at a scary moment of history. And if you disagree, this is probably due to the stories you are telling yourself, not the truth. And if you think the people who disagree ARE fully aware of the truth, you are also telling yourself stories, not seeing the full truth. The sad, frustrating, dangerous, and frankly somewhat traumatizing thing is, forces have transpired to fog the truth up for us. Gah, I know, that's vague. But that's the point. It would be nice to be able to point directly at Putin and blame the rise of totalitarianism on the Russian propaganda machine, but that's just part of it. It's easy
to point to the new administration, which is doing it blatantly: But again, that's just part
of it. If we all called these things as they are, they wouldn't have any power. But the fog isn't coming out of a single sfx machine that we can just unplug. A spun story here, an appeal to People Like Me there, a information miasma without enough librarians, and countless individual stories-we-tell-ourselves being presented as truth in echo chambers among people telling similar stories, and you end up with a GREAT SMOG pouring in from countless
I'm super-sensitive to this fog, which is why I said it's somewhat traumatizing. It's traumatizing for ME. I don't like my mind being messed with. It makes me angry. It makes me frustrated. It makes me really really sad. And I feel like Cassandra when I see it happening and I can't get anyone to believe me (who doesn't already see it happening themselves).
Let me show you how these things happen, using a tragedy that happened down the street from me this past fall as an example (skip the paragraph if you don't want to read a tragedy). Here is what happened, strict facts. A man who had been abusive and outright threatened to kill his pregnant wife showed back up to torment her and threaten her life again, even though she had a PFA against him. She called the police. Police showed up, too late, he's already shot and killed her and now he turns the gun out the window and shoots two officers, killing one, badly injuring the other. The police shut down the area and go on a manhunt for the rest of the morning, only to find the guy had killed himself right after. 'Kay. That's what happened.
Here is one way the story could be presented, and was: the story of the police martyrs cut down in the line of duty by a cop-killer. This angle is still in evidence in our town-- the blue-and-black ribbons are still up all over, the signs that say "We stand with you, Cbg PD!" and "We salute our fallen officers." This angle really resonates with people, which is how my little neighborhood ended up making the national news. Implicit in this coverage is a "Those darn criminals keep killing our fine police officers!" message. And it goes farther, it gets turned into "Why do you keep accusing the police of brutality, can't you see THEY'RE the victims, THEY'RE the ones that keep getting SHOT DOWN because your lies about police brutality make people hate them?!" Whoa, slow down here. The guy shot them because he was a violent maniac and they were coming to arrest him, not because he was part of some cop-killer club or anything, lying in ambush just waiting to pick one off. Officer B truly did die in the line of duty
, not out of some political demonstration
Now look at the way the story was NOT presented. I was surprised when the story made the national news because the sad fact is domestic abusers kill their partners ALL THE TIME, and you don't
hear it on the national news unless one of them's famous or something really unusual and gruesome happened or, say, a cop got killed. Is this woman, and her unborn child, and all the other victims of domestic abuse, somehow less important
than the police officers who were trying to save her? Is her life worth less? Why is her
death not a national tragedy? Oh, sure, the police were in a way innocent bystanders, just doing their jobs, and they got shot. But isn't she equally innocent? Isn't it a tragedy that she's had to suffer at his hands and words all this time, that she tried
to get help and protection and it ultimately didn't work? With all the black-and-blue ribbons all over town, in just one place do you see a memorial to her
-- on the electric signpost of the drug store where she worked. Her coworkers love and miss her. But everywhere else she's forgotten.
Now imagine what would have happened to the story the world saw if I change just one detail. You see, this woman was an immigrant from Egypt. Her killer husband was an all-american white boy with freakin' american flags waving off the back of his truck (I used to gawk at it, it was something). WHAT IF their ethnicities had been reversed? What if the killer
was a Middle-Eastern immigrant and his wife was *gasp* blonde?
If you don't think this would change the way this story was told, you haven't been paying much attention
. We all have our own Normals, based on where we grew up, where we live now, who we were raised by, and who we were raised among
. When we see just a snapshot of another Normal, it's easy to jump to conclusions. Because this
, people in that Normal must be this other thing
. So we get a bit repulsed by the Others and retreat deeper into our own Normals, where everyone tells the same stories about What Normal IS that you do So we automatically frame what we see in terms of what we already consider normal. The story of the tragedy in my neighborhood takes on a different meaning depending on how you feel toward police officers, what your experiences or knowledge of domestic abuse is like, or how much you know about the culture to which any of the interested parties belong. We group people and experiences into "like me" and "not like me" categories in our heads, and when evidence goes contradictory to it, we rewrite our understanding of reality to fit. Sometimes we change our opinions. But other times we hold tighter to what we used to know as true.
This is true across the board, but people who are still optimistic about our new president have had it particularly bad, lately. They were so excited to get a GOP president-- "GOP! Anti-Obama and Anti-Hillary! That means he's LIKE US!"-- that they fail to see that he's actually NOT. Oh, he's not a Democrat in disguise either, all right. He's not a normal president, period.
But he must
be good because he says things about Making America Great Again, and that's exactly what we want to hear, so.... Particularly fascinating are the folks in these pictures who admire his Godliness but wish he'd stop tweeting. I suppose because every tweet makes the UNGodliness stand out instead. It makes it hard for them to keep telling that story to themselves. If he keeps it up they may be forced to change their minds about him, and they'd rather not, so just shut up, Donny, and let them keep their fantasies, okay?
Don't run away from reading me here yet, my conservative friends! Don't get complacent, my liberal ones! The Left has their own pretty stories, too. The most problematic one is lumping all President Trumpsterfire's supporters together with the worst of them. They've all made a serious mistake-- yes, you KNOW I think you've made a serious mistake, people who voted for him-- but not for nefarious purposes. Yes, they may kill people by taking away their health care, yes, they may invalidate people's marriages, yes, they may condone the persecution of millions of innocents because of their heritage or genetics, but they DON'T SEE IT THAT WAY. They know different Stories
, they either don't HAVE all the facts or they can't make the facts fit into their Stories so they respin them as falsehoods. A few of them--a few-- really ARE hateful, bigoted scum. But when we call the REST hateful bigoted scum, too, it just makes it harder for them to listen to the actual truths you're telling that they need to hear! I've seen too many conservative friends bristling away from the movement toward justice because of this. I found the pictures from the Womens' Marches really inspiring yesterday. Then I saw a tweet from a conservative friend in response to someone who'd said LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL EVERYONE UNITED EVERYONE IS WELCOME! "...not the Pro-Life ones," she replied bitterly. OUCH. I know what she means. I have no doubt that Pro-Life women WOULD have been and WERE welcomed into the marches, but a lot of Pro-Choicers have a problem how they talk
about the Pro-Life movement-- they, too, lump people who genuinely believe in the sanctity of life with misogynists who just want to control women's sexuality. This is a particularly frustrating issue for me, because I grew up in a very actively Pro-Life extended family-- I've done the March for Life myself!-- and I thoroughly understand my family members' actual feelings on the matter, and I truly consider myself Pro-Life, even though from a political standpoint I am technically pro-choice
. I don't think the picture shows up in the quoted tweet, here's the one I was referring to: I've had a real hard time at church since just before the election. Remember I said I hadn't lost my faith in God but was pretty disillusioned with the Church
? Our pastor, he's a great guy y'know, but the Sunday before the election he said something like, "Yeah, we have to make a choice, and it looks like we have to make a choice between 'Bad' and 'Worse.' I can't tell you who to vote for, but I will say when you get down to it that the most important thing is protecting the Sanctity of Life, and we have to vote to stop abortion." And I'm just SERIOUSLY HAVE YOU EVEN LOOKED AT THIS GUY, HE IS ANTI
-LIFE UNLESS IT'S HIS OWN! The fact that the Pro-Life movement has become SO FOCUSED on overturning Roe vs. Wade that they can no longer see that liberal movements have actually done far far more to REALLY protect the sanctity of life (I can't find the article I read about this last summer that uses facts to support this claim, but here's another article I found while looking for it that at least expresses the idea in more detail
) is just... so depressing, really. And if we'd stop being so PARTISAN about it, we could SEE this, and actually WORK TOGETHER to truly protect LIFE.
I think the most important thing we need to do is follow Haymitch's advice in Catching Fire,
and remember who the real enemies are.
I know we find it hard to forgive each other. I know we're angry, we're all so angry. But let's make sure we're focusing the anger in the right place. I saw someone say, "Trump didn't divide America!" -- true, we've already been divided. I've seen others say, "We need to stand together and put faith in the election process and our new administration." Or, the opposite, "We CANNOT play nice anymore. The Nazis weren't defeated because the Allies had a nice discussion and they all shook hands."
BUT. A totalitarian government just LOVES when it can pit its citizens against each other. It LOVES to be all "if you're not for us your against us." There are people TRYING to get us to hate each other, pointing at all the worst actions of the "other" side instead of the many many more right actions. WE CANNOT LET THEM DO THIS. Civil war destroys so much. A revolution, on the other hand? If we all, ALL, take a good look around and see who the enemies REALLY are? It's rough when we're still divided over the stories we're getting, but the fact is the majority of people are GOOD PEOPLE. And when we stick together instead of turning on each other, we can beat this.
I don't know if this whole quoted tweet will show up, but... You see this is the one she was quoting: That original tweet was a little bitter, about how privileged white women are that they don't have THEIR protests broken up by riot police (when there isn't a riot). But Goldeen takes that and says LET'S USE THIS. You see what we can do when we ALL stand together? We can't let anyone try to divide us any more. We need to speak up even when we aren't the direct victims of an injustice. We need to listen to each other and not just assume that, oh, this is only about THEM, or that, oh, I don't see a problem so obviously there isn't really a problem they're just overreacting
. If we open our eyes and hearts and stand together, we can keep the real enemies from their nefarious plans. We can make right
mighty, instead of pretending might makes right.