2022-07-15 Lisa Rokusek - when conversations get political

lisa rokusek (@lisarokusek): I've had a lot of conversations lately - in person - where I will hear a troubling framing and have to make a choice. Phrases like "when things get politicized" or "bodily autonomy applies to vaccines" or "we've gotten too divisive" are all things that set my antennae to quiver.

I have to immediately calm myself down and gently hit pause in the flow of the conversation and ask the person what they mean. I do this better sometimes than others - sometimes I still say "thats just bullshit" which is not skillful or helpful.

I am getting better though.

Because I've decided my job in this moment in the middle of this shitshow is to help people who mean well but use language that is part of our problem without thinking, to think more deeply & to help them see why that matters. I'm amazed I still get invited to hang out w/others.

Frankly I'm amazed @humanbn has not left me but thats a daily joy and not just about my pedantic tendencies. But see it is more and more clear to me that the unquestioned frameworks we use shape our perspective in powerful ways. Those three examples above? Feeder systems to bad.

I had a conversation today with a dear friend who said "when things get politicized" meaning that is a bad thing - I stopped her and said, problem is not politics, or things getting political. Politics is simply how we shape society. Lets correctly name the problem. What is it?

After a lot of discussion about bad faith and elected officials actively taking rights away from constituents and lying and being corrupt we ended up at a lack of accountability and authoritarianism and fascism.

She didn't like saying the word.

It scared her.

She got more comfortable, though, and I could see her gears turning and her mind returning to that exchange during the rest of our conversation. We also talked about how too much of our national media also has this problem. How too many of the frames they use default to harmful.

These frameworks in our major media organizations make it okay to leave so many behind, to throw so many people away. That scared her too. I agreed. It is frightening and that we are so inured to it as to no longer notice is also frightening.

As she was leaving I showed her this tweet and watched her reaction to it: https://twitter.com/FareedZakaria/status/1547707500312506369

At first she smiled, and then when I kept looking at her, expectantly, she reread it.

Then her eyes got big. She said that is part of the problem - advocating for allowing folks to take rights away, saying some rights don't matter and are a distraction.

Then I smiled and I showed her this tweet, and said this is a better framework, the perfect response: https://twitter.com/Chasten/status/1547937392631246857

I think we all need to be doing more of this and better. I'm making a real effort, because this is also the work. This was a good friend, but I will do it in choppier waters too. My challenge is to keep the humanity of the person centered in my mind and approach. It is not easy.

When I talk to that tech dudes who like Joe Rogan - and I do that almost every day - it is PAINFULLY HARD to keep their humanity centered. I want to onroad them to believing in & valuing a pluralistic society while helping them see not all opinions are equal, some are corrosive.

My instinct is to get impatient when they say things like "everyone gets to have an opinion" in the same sentence as "my body my choice" about a vaccine mandate. I'm getting better at tamping down my impatience when I say,"pregnancy is not contagious that comparison is not good."

Few of us are aware of what we don't know and what we don't know is often at the heart of many of our missteps-we do have to give people a chance to learn and do better. People can change for the better.

I want to help that happen when I can.

But people who refuse to change can be dangerous & then they need to be firewalled away from the people they can hurt. Elevating those folks and giving them power and prestige is partly why we are here in this scary place.

Another causal factor is letting folks in casual conversation say things that uphold bad things for our society say them without being questioned.

When people say "we've gotten too divisive" I now reflexively ask, "Can you tell me more about what you mean?"

What I want to say is,"Who is being divisive?" Which is still an improvement on what I used to say which is "People fighting for the right to exist w/o being assaulted and murdered are often not and don't need to be polite." but I want to help them see that, not turn them off.

So I breathe through my arrogant incredulosity & prepare to walk through a conversation about people asserting their right to exist (that applies to so many people) & folks replying to that argument w/ugliness & how to see who is doing what and why & how its not equally divisive.

This takes energy and capacity and the space to not react in the face of things that are highly charged. I cannot do it every day in every conversation. I screw up A LOT. People who know me know I am highly excitable, have had to work hard to listen well, and I am arrogant.

But I'm interested in getting free and that goes for even the people who think weird shit or who say stuff that is more dangerous than they realize without thinking.

We are all people and we need to find a way to live together. I'd like us all to thrive.

Whew this went long and I need to get back to work, I have calls to make. Probably to Joe Rogan fans. UGH. Lolol.

See how I am?

Thanks for listening. <3

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