The nation is on fire, or at least it was after looting erupted near and intermingled with protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I haven’t written anything in a while, but have been pretty much consumed with these events, so I have plenty to say about them. In my less-than-typical manner, I’m going to get some bullet points out of the way without going into detail or nuance, just to get these ideas out here before I get to the real topic of this post, the mob mentality that is alive and well in the United States.
There is a lot happening in Charlottesville today and yesterday. A group of white nationalists has come to town to protest. I hope it’s obvious to anybody who knows me that this upsets me. But I’m missing some key data. These are things that might be known to somebody, but not me. Forgive the stream of consciousness, but here goes nothing.
Imagine this: you’re a man sitting on a bus, next to some stranger who is also a man, and a woman gets on the bus, walks toward your seats, turns to the stranger next to you and says, “I love you.” It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to conclude two things: a) that the woman loves the man, and b) that the woman does not love you. The first can be a bit heartwarming, the second either neutral or heartbreaking. If the woman is somebody you’ve never met before, the conclusion that the woman does not love you is likely meaningless, and not anything you’d think twice about. Of course she doesn’t love you, she doesn’t know you. But, what if the woman were your wife. Now, not only is her love for the stranger next to you a betrayal, but the lack of love for you is about has hurtful as you can imagine. The point to take from this, and hold on to for what’s coming next, is that the lack of a message directed to you, while being directed to another, can be neutral or hurtful, depending on the context. Let’s adopt some shorthand for the rest of this. The situation when somebody does something nice for another (e.g., says “I love you”) and you smile because it was sweet is going to be called a “positive interpretation.” When somebody does something nice for another and you feel like you deserved something nice too, and you focus on the fact that something wasn’t done for you, we’ll call that a “negative interpretation.” Remember that jargon and let’s think about some issues in society and let’s see where this changes how we feel when we hear others say things, and how we might want to think about things we say ourselves.
[Edit: I’m sure this is rough. I didn’t proofread it before publishing. It’s not supposed to be for anybody else’s consumption anyway. Perhaps I’ll go back and fix it, but if this note is still here, that hasn’t happened yet. For now it’s just a first draft, and a hope at some relief that never seems to come.]
The last week has been full of sadness. We’ve had stories of people dying at the hands of what seem to be poorly trained police officers (although I’m the first to admit that I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a cop), and just last night, at an overwhelmingly peaceful protest about those deaths, madmen struck and shot and killed police officers. Officers who were not involved in any of these horrible stories (and even if they were, it wouldn’t justify killing them), officers who were clearly part of the community, and who were there to help the protesters exercise their first amendment right to assemble. There seemed to be no animosity between the protesters and the police. I’m not sure why that matters to me, but I think it makes it especially sad that the shooting happened there, in a place, Dallas, that has a reputation for making it work, and making it work well.
I try to keep emotion out of this blog, in fact, that’s kind of the rule here, but I’m not sure I can keep it out of this one, and it’s my blog…really my diary, so I can break the rules when I want.