Sadly, Being Nice Rarely Changes Things

While I’m usually pretty nice and well behaved here on my blog, it has happened a time or two in real life and on social media that I have been criticized for being too harsh, too dramatic and too provocative. The way I communicate has been called vulgar, bombastic, hateful, angry and divisive. More than one person has tried to plead with me (or shame me) to tone it down. Typically they claim that no one will listen to me because I’m alienating people. Clearly, I have not found these arguments or criticisms particularly persuasive.

To demonstrate why, take a look at these fascinating charts:

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Between 2009 and 2014, the percentage of white people claiming that we have done enough to give blacks equal rights vs those who say that more needs to be done remained stable. Most white people had declared mission accomplished. But by 2015, the positions had completely reversed with most white people suddenly deciding that we needed to do more to give blacks equal rights. What happened? Well, Black Lives Matters happened. Conflict happened. Protests happened. Arguments happened. Roads were blocked, events were disrupted, people shouted and refused to back down. A few even set shit on fire.

Much like me, BLM was criticized for being too harsh, too dramatic, too provocative. They were called vulgar, bombastic, hateful, angry and divisive. They were told that all they were doing was alienating people.  Right wing media engage in a demonic smear campaign against them to make J. Edgar Hoover do a jig in his grave. The leaders of BLM, however, had studied the history of non-violent social change and they knew better than to give the calls to simmer down and be nice any credence. And for all the criticism and complaints, people’s eyes started to open and their minds began to change. Their denial became less sustainable. In a very short amount of time, opinions flipped quite dramatically.

You see, the idea that we can get people to change their minds about important issues, come out of denial and recognize the error of their ways through civility and dialogue sounds high minded and reasonable. Except reality doesn’t actually work like that. It could, if people were better at listening, less defensive and less invested in victim blaming. But they’re not.

Which is why it is both good and necessary that we have some people who are willing to be obnoxious, piss everyone off and refuse to back down. People who are willing to have people think that they’re a jerk and talk shit about them and say nasty things to them. And while not everyone can or should be that sort of person, I am quite happy to be one of those people at this moment in history. I get that at any given moment. I have a fair number of people mad at, disgusted by or appalled at me. That’s OK. I’m a mom; it’s not a novel experience for me.

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What’s the Point of Protesting? #womensmarch

Image result for women's marchAfter the shudder and wretch inducing inauguration, the incredibly successful Women’s March on Saturday was balm for a lot of our souls. A reminder that Trump does not have the support of the American people. Which is all well and fine,  but what good does protesting actually do? Especially when the aims of the protest are so nebulous and ill defined? Even if we have the numbers, the bad guys have the power. Does all this marching and protesting actually matter? Are we just yelling to the wind as some critics have charged?

Well, I would argue that protests – especially large, noisy, hard to ignore protests do matter and will make a difference. And this is true even when there’s no specific policy goal or demands being made. Heck, the Republicans have spent the last 8 years (or longer) demonstrating that protest works, even when no one actually agrees with what you are trying to do.

The reason that protests work and are worthwhile has to do with the way that most people think about politics and the political process. Which is to say that they really don’t. Most Americans are what are referred to as “low information voters“, meaning that they aren’t keeping up with all the ins and outs of what’s going on in the political and policy world. And let’s face it, with the complexities and competing narratives surrounding politics, a lot of people are going to struggle to make sense of what’s going on even if they did paying attention. So what most people rely instead when forming their opinions are called heuristics, or rules of thumb, in evaluating the political sphere.

One of the important heuristics which people use when deciding whether a president (or party, but mainly the president) is doing well or not is the presence of open conflict. If there’s open conflict, that sends a signal to voters that the president is not doing his job well. If there’s relative quiet and things are getting done – even if they are things that voters don’t necessarily agree with – that sends a signal to voters that the president is doing a good enough job. This is a well documented phenomena which has strongly influenced which party holds power in the legislative branch for the last 30 years.

Typically, the conflict is created by the politicians from each party on capital hill. But given the Democrats’ demonstrable inability and unwillingness to provoke and sustain conflict, the work of creating conflict has fallen to the American people. While conservatives have been busy having a meltdown over the protests which basically amounts to screeching “shut up stupid women” over and over, this massive show of discontent and opposition sends a powerful signal to the average low information voter that there’s a problem. And when there’s a problem, it’s the president and his party which gets blamed.

Of course, one protest isn’t going to change things, popular though narratives about “protests that changed the course of history” are. In order to bring about change, there needs to be sustained efforts, protests and confrontations which keep the conflict front and center in the public’s eye. At this point it seems likely that those of us who oppose Trump aren’t going to settle quietly back into normal life. The election of Trump has already radicalized a significant number of people. And Trump appears determined to do his part to keep the movement motivated and active.

The problem we face is that Trump and the GOP are authoritarians who don’t much care what the public thinks or wants. And the GOP has managed to gerrymander and essentially cheat their way into a permanent grip on power. Which just makes it all the more important that we continue to engage in frequent, highly visible displays of opposition. While our opposition may not move Trump or lawmakers, the public has the expectation that the president will create peace, not turmoil. Really, there’s nothing that the average Joe blow wants less than a breakdown of social order and the ongoing presence of this conflict will send a powerful signal to them that the president is failing in his most basic tasks and duties.

The danger of pursuing a course of action which maximizes conflict is that Trump’s authoritarian impulses will lead him and/or his supporters to respond with a show of force meant to shut down opposition. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the kinds of state violence which we observed against Standing Rock water protectors will become common place throughout the country.

However, a president who essentially goes to war against his own people will be signing his own resignation papers. Americans value peace and order (at least within our own borders), but at the very core of our identity is that we are a free people. We can be manipulated, but we’re damn hard to exert control over. No president who openly turns on masses of his own people will long endure. And when that president seems to be going out of his way to be as divisive and unpleasant as humanly possible, people are not likely to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I mention the possibility of provoking a dangerous, repressive response because we need to be honest with ourselves about what we’re dealing with. However, I don’t think it will come to that. While it’s been criticized by the “give cheeto Mussolini a chance” brigade, the fact that there is such intense opposition right out the gate will work to our advantage so long as we maintain it going forward. Donald Trump is a thin skinned, vengeful billionaire who isn’t used to engaging in fights that he can’t just buy his way out of. He’s also a megalomaniac who has to bring his own cheering section with him where ever he goes. Either he’s going to start trying to placate us (getting rid of his appointees and advisers who have ties to white nationalists would be a great place to start). Or he’s going to continue to misstep badly. Either way works to our advantage.

Never forget: both reality and the will of the American people are on our side. So protest away! It’s going to make all the difference.

Your Simple Act of Resistance 1/16

This is one that you may have seen before, but with some additional information. Paul Ryan has been taking a phone poll regarding the ACA (Obamacare) for a few months now. To access it, you can call either (202) 225-3031 or (202) 225-0600. You choose option 2, listen to a ridiculous, incomplete and misleading statement from Ryan about the ACA and after a pause can choose to press 1 to indicate that you support the ACA. You are then given the option of leaving a brief message.

I have heard rumors that Ryan is no longer taking any phone calls. People are saying that no human is answering and that instead of being given the option to leave a message, callers are simply disconnected. I do know that Ryan sent 6 security guards to turn away activists trying to deliver signed petitions to him asking not to defund Planned Parenthood. There’s now a sign on his door saying that only people with scheduled appointments will be allowed to enter the door of his office.

However, when I called the numbers above, the first one simply told me that the mailbox was full and to call later. The second number worked, although I didn’t attempt to leave a message. I also called his Janesville WI office (608-752-4050), but it’s a holiday so I got the standard message saying that the office was closed and offering voicemail. It could be different tomorrow, but it appears that at least some calls are getting through. Although for the last couple of months, legislative staffers have been saying that voice mail has been filling up as fast as they can empty it. (Yay!)

So for today’s simple act of resistance, you have a few options:

  1. You can call (202) 225-0600 and take the poll indicating support of the ACA.
  2. You can call one of Paul Ryan’s offices and leave a message expressing your support for the ACA. (Be brief, be polite, do not make threats, share a brief synopsis of your story if you have one, do not call repeatedly or call every number.) The numbers for his offices are:

Washington DC: (202) 225-3031

Janesville WI: (608) 752-4050

Kenosha WI: (262) 654-1901

Racine WI: (262) 637-0510

3. If you are unable to get through, the mailboxes are full, you have a severe phone phobia or you just want to be a pain in the ass and make sure he gets the message, you can also send a postcard with a brief message to his home address:

PAUL RYAN
700 ST. LAWRENCE AVE.
JANESVILLE, WI 53545

So, there’s your simply act of resistance for today. Get to work and pass it on!

 

Why Discussion and Reasoning Have Failed

Want to know why communicating with people on the other side has become so difficult? Well, everyone focuses on the outrageous things Rush Limbaugh says, but if you listen to his show, you can see that underneath all the nonsense, what he’s doing is teaching people the dirty tricks of rhetoric and debate. He’s been showing his listeners how to trip people up with manufactured double binds, sentences crafted to allow you to believe something other than what is being communicated, gaslighting, diversion, red flags and other tactics which are used to turn communication into a weapon for dominance.

Which leads us to the core conflict that many people seem to have missed. The issue is that Trump supporters and the radical right are playing a power game, pure and simple. The rest of us are out here talking about issues, right and wrong, what’s best for the country, etc and can’t figure out why things like facts, morality and reality don’t mean anything to these people. Well, that’s because they are concerned with dominance, period, amen, end of story. Their dominance has been threatened by the rest of us and they want it back. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

Obviously, this is a big problem that we’re going to be working to change for a while, but in the meantime I for one am done playing this game where I try to reason with people whose only real concern is maintaining the dominant position. Aren’t you tired of playing the game? What’s going on in the world is not a game. We aren’t moving chess pieces on a board to determine who gets to be dominant. It’s bullshit.

If you’re tired too, just stop playing. Stop explaining every freaking thing you say, answering every objection and taking the bait for every diversionary red flag. Refuse to engage unless they are willing to do in a genuine way and not just with an eye towards domination. Because ultimately, this is how we beat their stupid, pathetic, childish game: you stop playing it with them.

Your Simple Act of Resistance for the Day

Going forward, I’m going to try and share one simple action with detailed instructions which you can take each day to push back against Trump and other politicians who are hell bent on destroying our country. Today’s action was passed on to me by a friend on facebook and all it takes is a tweet. In his press conference today, Donald Trump made the claim that the public doesn’t care about his tax returns. He claimed that only the press was concerned with such things and, contrary to what he said repeatedly, he has no plans on releasing his tax returns.

So, if you are one of the people who does care about Trump’s tax returns and you are on twitter, here’s your simple act of resistance for the day. Just copy and paste this tweet and send it:

Release your tax returns! I’m one of millions of American citizens who DO want to see your #taxreturns as you promised

And once you’ve done that, you should go ahead and follow me there too. My handle is @upsidedwnworld.

I’m still here

Don’t worry, I didn’t disappear on y’all again. I’ve just been crazy busy with sick kids and kids needing chauffeuring and wanting to be fed and clothed and whatnot. But I’ll be getting some more stuff up in just a bit here. I have a story about the time my husband’s career was ruined by racism. And sharing some information in dissociative disorders and trauma induced mental health issues generally, probably broken into parts. And other stuff.

But in the meantime, I’d also just like to remind everyone that Trump was beaten by nearly 3 million in the popular vote by a woman who would have lost to a marmot in a landslide. So don’t let anyone sell you on the idea that this is Trump’s country now. It’s not. Although I have heard tell that it’s probably Russia’s country now. So . . .

See ya in a bit, peeps!

Interracial Marriage Realities

My African American husband has moved into all of our homes sight unseen after we discovered that once the rental/real estate people met him, housing suddenly became unavailable and our credit wasn’t good enough. When I handled all the in-person stuff by myself, suddenly it was easy enough to find housing.

My husband and I are not connected on facebook in large part so that I can run my mouth without worrying that his employment or career might be adversely affected if I say something controversial, particularly about race. He has essays on race issues that he won’t publish, despite having offers from a few high profile websites because of fear of blowback.

I have signed more than one confidentiality agreement with more than one of the corporations my husband had been employed by agreeing not to discuss the details of their racist treatment of him in exchange for a small severance package that didn’t come remotely close to covering the time it takes for a black man to find a job.

None of this stuff is unusual for people of color in our country. Which is why the claim that racial issues are the result of the media or “rabblerousers” and that white people experience as much or more discrimination than non-white people is utter dishonest, delusional bullshit.