slammerkinbabe: (!dejected)
Well, my lunchtime kindness experiment didn't go very well. I went down to Burger King to find a woman standing at the counter, ripping the clerk a new one because her sundaes had come without hot fudge. She was clearly strung out as hell, with leathery skin stretched drum-tight over her skull but still marked with wrinkles like razor-cuts in clay, and I do not know what her drug of choice is but I know neither her appearance or her manner suggested sobriety. She was fit to be tied because she had paid $1.29 each for two sundaes, and the clerk had given her two cups of plain ice cream and was telling her that the hot fudge cost extra. "That's not a sundae, that's ice cream," she kept saying, reasonably enough, and then she'd lean over the counter to try to poke the picture of the sundaes on the screen and she'd yell "That's FALSE ADVERTISING!" The poor clerk, who is not at fault for Burger King's sundae-toppings policy, kept reiterating again and again that it would cost more for the hot fudge, and the woman was yelling, and everyone in line was shifting from foot to foot and looking in other directions, and oh.

So I dug what change I had out of my purse and laid it on the counter next to the woman. I happen to agree with her that a cup of plain ice cream is not a sundae*, but more than that, I mostly wanted her to just leave the clerk alone. I figured I was doing them both a favor. "I think that should cover the hot fudge," I said.

She glanced down at it, said, "Aw, thank you, sweetie," and pocketed it. Then she resumed fighting with the clerk.


Well, you win some, you lose some. I just contributed 87 cents toward her next bag of whatever, and I hope it doesn't kill her. She eventually left with her two cups of plain ice cream, and life moved on.

I knew from the start of this that naivete was going to be a big stumbling block in my attempts to be kinder to people, and nowhere is that likely to be more evident than in my attempts to treat homeless people and drug addicts, who flock around the block where I work by the dozens, like ordinary human beings and not crafty con artists who are always looking to take advantage of you and who, if you give them money, are going to immediately use it to overdose. I have a cousin who works with addicts for a living and man does she ream me out for giving money to homeless people. I have taken what she says more to heart than I meant to, and so in recent months I've taken to buying little gift certificates to Burger King and giving those out to panhandlers,*** figuring it would be a hassle to try to trade those for money or drugs or anything else and so the odds are good they'll just use them to eat. I like to think that's a good balance between naivete and cruel skepticism. But every so often I do something like I just did today, and sometimes it goes stupid, like it did today. I'm not really sure what the moral of the story is, but I'll file it away. Maybe by the end of a month and change I'll have an answer.

*I just got into a thing with JP Licks because they are out of hot fudge, whipped cream, or both half the times I go there. I wrote a letter of complaint about that and the fact that they were playing obscene Chris Brown music really loud the last time I went there, and then I realized that I had become A Person Who Writes Complaint Letters to Proprietors of Ice Cream Parlors and I had an internal crisis. Point is, I too feel it is an important point of principle that a sundae is not a sundae without *at least* one wet topping.
**Why does Microsoft's version of the crying-laughing emoji look like an emoji wearing streaky face paint at a football game?
***Actually they happen to have had a couple of promotions where they gave away tickets for free food -- one of them a promotion where a dollar gets you a scratch-off ticket and scratching it reveals what free food item you get, and the other just a "give us $1 and we'll give you a booklet of coupons for free food" thing, both of them benefiting the Jimmy Fund. I LOVED that because it meant I could buy a bunch of them to give out to homeless people and even if they didn't use them or bartered them or someshit I was still donating to the Jimmy Fund. But now both those promotions are over and I only have one coupon book left so I don't know what I do next.
slammerkinbabe: (!politics (shades of gray))
So last night I got Capital-Letter Mysterious about a Thing that I might start using LiveJournal for. It's kind of laughable, because in a way it's the simplest thing in the world, and yet it's weighing on me. I am looking around at the world right now and I'm not liking what I see. This isn't terribly new, but the degree is new. Donald Trump honestly has ushered in what I think is a very, very scary trend of thought. He is fomenting a wave of hatred that is like nothing I've ever seen in my lifetime. Creating and spurring on paranoia, as well; λ and I were just having a discussion last night about what under the canopy you're supposed to do with people who believe that every single major news outlet in the country is in collusion with the Clinton campaign to hide the truth from the American people. You can't believe anything anyone except Trump and his surrogates tell you. Isn't that clinical paranoia? I have read about Trump supporters who have been sent to psych wards for homicidal ideation and been really pissed off about it because what they say and think is no different than what every Trump supporter says and thinks. What do you do with that? The paranoia, the fury, the hatred?

I am terrified of Trump supporters, but to be honest, I am almost entirely out of patience with the way that a lot of liberals, including myself sometimes, respond to them. Look at how stupid they are! we say. Look, look how ridiculous, look how dumb, look how offensive, these mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers left over from the Pleistocene era. They are racist to the rotten core, their hearts pump curdled blood spiked with venom, they are a shouting, cursing, scrabbling, red-faced horde of morons led on by their own personal orange-hued Pied Piper. If we interact with them at all, it's to score points off them. We make fun of them, point out how stupid they are, then high-five the people who agree with us. We’ve given up on thinking of them as fellow human beings with real concerns -- how can we focus on that when they are being so awful? Trump is the worst and his followers are the worst and we need to take the presidency and the House and the Senate and then they will be rendered effectively voiceless, which is good because they seem to be mainly using their voices to scream racial slurs and "#MAGA". The problem is with them, them and their hatefulness, them and their racism, them and their hero-worship of a monster.

I couldn't write this so passionately if I hadn't lived it. But I'm growing tired of it now, and frustrated. Something has been rising up in me over the last few months, a sense of -- this can't be all there is. We can't stay this polarized, this hateful, this dismissive of 40% of the country. Hillary is probably going to get elected but Trump's supporters will still be out there, probably watching Trump TV, cheering him on in bitter tones. Convinced the election was rigged. Convinced they have been shut out of the paradise whose doors Trump would have thrown open for them, if Killary hadn't stolen the election from him. Trump will not be as dangerous to the country on Trump TV as he would be as president, but what he has set in motion, this rolling boulder of hatred and divisiveness, is not going to go away if November 9th sees him writing the least gracious concession speech in US history.

I want to be kind.

That's what it's been coming down to for me lately. I want to choose a different path. I want to stop dehumanizing Trump supporters, stop reflexively dismissing people who disagree with me. I want to talk to those people like they're not idiots, even when they're talking like they are. I want to see how far kindness and openness and a nonjudgmental approach can take me. It might take me precisely nowhere. But I want to try. I don't think I've ever consciously tried that before, except in scattered bits and pieces here and there.

I like to start things with round numbers, with fresh page-turns, so that means I would like to start this on November 1st, about a week from now. And to be honest, there are a lot of directions I could take this in, but I'm kind of thinking the best test there could possibly be is comments sections. They are seething cesspits of the worst aspects of human nature, and I want to see what happens if I go in calm and assuming other people are arguing in good faith, attempting to change minds (and at least leaving open the possibility that my own mind will be changed) instead of taking out my resentments and aggressions on people who think Hillary Clinton has had 200 people killed. I've tried this a little in recent months, as I've been getting increasingly frustrated with the normal tenor of online conversation. I had a conversation with an "All Lives Matter" person that actually went pretty well. I got in a conversation about reproductive rights that ended up with each of us treating the other like a human being. That's mostly what I want anyway.

This isn't just about kindness, of course. I'm not that naïve. It's kindness and rationality (equally difficult to use effectively in these situations) and, crucially, psychology and guile. I have been reading articles about the best ways to convince people to listen to you when you're disagreeing with them, because we've all seen what happens when, to take a non-Trump example for a moment, you tell an anti-vaxxer that there's no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism. They dig in harder. They believe it more. This has been shown in multiple studies. When you challenge someone's beliefs, you are challenging part of their self-image, their understanding of themselves and the world around them. You have to be incredibly careful how you do it, or you're going to make things worse. And most people don't have that kind of time or energy to spare on randos in comments sections. I get that.

But I look at discussions where people are saying, for instance, that 14 women have come forward to accuse Trump of sexual abuse because they want attention. And I want to say -- what? Are you seeing the kind of attention they are getting? Why would anyone want that?! I see people who question why these women are just coming forward right now and the answer seems so clear to me and if I have the spoons for it, isn't it my duty to try to talk them around, try to make them understand, try to defuse this anger that's being channeled toward these women?

Carefully. So, so carefully.

When I came up with this idea one night last week -- I couldn't sleep, was stewing over this, and slowly something began to cohere in my mind -- I thought I would engage in one discussion per day that I would normally roll my eyes and use the block key on. I thought I would try to ramp up slowly, first on conversations like the "All Lives Matter" one -- where I was pretty sure from the start that I could talk her around if I worked at it because she didn't seem like an unkind person herself, just an oblivious one -- and then, as I figured out by trial and error what the best ways are of talking with people who disagree with you, talking to people who are angrier or meaner or more set in their ways. I have to admit I'm kind of quailing as I think of that later stage. How do you talk to hardcore white supremacists? What happens if you try to bring a breath of fresh air into the fetid wankfests on 4chan?

I don't know. I just know I want to try. It may not be all one-comment-discussion-per-day; there are lots of real-life things I'd like to talk about that fit within the theme of being kinder and reaching out more to people I would normally laugh at. But this is where I'm at right now, and this is what I want to try to do. And one comment-discussion-per-day seems like a good attainable goal, so, I guess, stay tuned. I'll probably be sharing commentary and screenshots. At minimum I hope to gain some insight into the best ways of talking with people who disagree with you. At maximum... well, maybe some people will be different at the end of this. Me, at least.

I wish I were certain that everyone reading this isn't laughing at me.


slammerkinbabe: (Default)

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