Yeah. The title says it all.
Okay– so I get into the hot tub which is usually my happy place, right? And usually, since I get to class late and then stay and try to make the time up, I’m alone, but not this time.
This time, I get there in time to hear an older man (out of the spa) and an older woman (in the spa) debating. The man says, “”How can you say that? Look at this? It’s October! It’s almost ninety degrees. How can you say climate change is a myth!”
“But this happens!” She looked at me to appeal, because the guy was pretty abrasive.
“Oh no, hon,” I say, my kindest voice to the fore. “He’s right–it’s real.”
“Let’s just agree to disagree,” she said a little desperately.
“But how can we fix it if we don’t even acknowledge it?” I ask, and for a moment, she looks like she wants to listen. For a moment, her mind is open.
“Well that’s just stupid and anyone who believes it is too stupid for me to even talk to.”
She beats a hasty retreat out of the spa and I turn to the guy.
“You can’t do that,” I say–again, Captain Reason. “You can’t tell people they’re too stupid to talk to, because then they’ll stop listening.”
“But people are just stupid. People like that who won’t even look at the facts aren’t worth my time.”
“But how are we going to change things if we just walk away from the conversation. That’s how liberals lose. They decide they’re too smart to talk to conservatives and they walk away.”
“But they’re so stupid!” the guy went off. “People like that–they’re not worth my time! Have you seen some of these people on TV? They do whatever the TV tells them, and if they station is FOX they believe that bullshit! They’re not even worth talking to!”
“But if you know better, isn’t it your job to educate them? I taught for years–I didn’t expect my kids to come in able to write an essay–even in the eleventh grade. I had to teach them how to reason–and how to think critically about the information they were given. Not everybody gets that. A lot of people are given the box and that’s the only shape they see until you point out another one.”
“Yeah, well I’m not here to educate the world.”
“Well who’s going to change it for the better if it’s not the people who see what’s wrong?”
“A few Republicans will flip because they’re afraid of their jobs. I’m not worried. That guy will get out office. We’ll be okay.”
“No we won’t–not if the people who see the problems only speak out to people who agree with them!”
The debate–and it was a debate–raged. I quoted Studs Terkel (which I mistakenly attributed to Saul Bellow, and now I feel like an idiot cause derp!) We didn’t raise our voices and we didn’t call each other bad names and we both kept our temper.
In the end he had to leave because his wife was waiting, and I needed to get to the showers myself.
But I didn’t get to finish with the thing I really wanted to say.
And the thing I really wanted to say was, “If you don’t talk to people reasonably and try to educate them, then what are you talking about social issues for? If all you’re doing is telling them they’re too stupid to even talk to, you’re entire purpose in pushing the point is to prove you’re superior. And that doesn’t make you a better person than they are. It might make you smarter, but it doesn’t make you any better than the person flashing the new car to prove they have money. Great. You get climate change is real and trickle down economics don’t work and racism needs to be addressed and educated out of the populace and the current administration is corrupt as fuck and Betsy Devos is a tapeworm crawling through the bloodstained vomit that is the current political party in charge. Good for you. But unless you educate the people you’re disagreeing with, and explain why you think these things and why your opinion has merit, all you’re doing is lording your intellectual superiority over the plebes, and that’s just as toxic as lording your money. Don’t do it. If you’re not going to convince that poor nice rich woman who has political ties in our community that the environment needs her help, all you’re doing is bullying her because you think you’re smarter than she is. Believing the liberals are right doesn’t do jack shit if you’re not going to use that belief to make the world just a little bit better, and if you’re going to use it to terrify people into avoiding you and anyone who believes the same thing you do, you’re actually making it worse.”
Of course, I was in the spa, in a bathing suit, and trying to enjoy the last sunshine of the year and get up the strength and optimism to finish my day. I didn’t sit in the spa to save the world and I didn’t have my debate panties on.
I just wish I was a little bit better at it when I got the chance.
I could have spent that time talking to the sweet, frightened older woman who was in denial, but by then she’d run the fuck away.
Education. EDUCATION. If we don’t believe people can learn new things then we can’t learn any ourselves. Edu-fucking-cation.