I wrote to my father today in a letter I’ll never send.
I have lots of thoughts Dad, but you know, the one that keep coming up is that, it’s kind of your fault.
You and my roommate are very smart people, but you both have a tendency to dismiss people out of hand which is not only snotty and superior, but also a cause of real harm.
When someone says they’re voting for Trump, you say he’s nuts, and turn them away with a brush of the back of your hand. You don’t say, “How come?” Then explain yourself. You assume you’re right, but you only get away with that because you’re educated.
I’m coming to realize I’m alone in always thinking I have something to learn, which means, sometimes, I get to hear someone else’s reasons before I say I’m right. And If I’m sure of something, I have proof and lots of evidence – which you both have. But I share it. I say here’s what I think, and why. Then leave it up to them to decide. I don’t tell them they’re stupid, or what to think. I present what I know and how I feel and leave it at that. If they’re a good enough person, who I can argue a point with, who won’t take it personally, then I’ll argue the point. Try to see it from how they see it.
When my old roommate comes across racism, she doesn’t get upset, she says, “lets talk about it.” Which I love. That’s how you build understanding – through calm smiles.
But I don’t know. Maybe this is naïve. Maybe this only works because I know so few people, so many of whom have so little power. And I like to hear people’s stories. Maybe that’s why I can get away with it. Maybe I’m being self-righteous. Anger and business and busyness are taking the place of community. The eff it, I don’t care, it won’t matter to me, at least I can be contrary if I choose this one – that’s what happens.
We don’t know what democracy means, because everyone smart assumes we learned it the same way they did.
Maybe my friends are right. Maybe I’m an over-explainer. You don’t think you have to explain yourself. You don’t give a why. You know you’re right, and how could no one else understand what you just learned five minutes ago.
I’m starting to think that the swath of insecure, quiet, shy people have nothing wrong with them. Nothing to be fixed. No necessary, mandatory self-confidence lessons. Because they take the time to understand, under the assumption they’re always wrong.