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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Narrative vs dialogue

I have recently been involved in a very interesting but unpleasant blog discussion.  I am not going to tell the entirety of the story, and what I do will be in my words.  I don't want to just rehash the experience, just make a point about the difference between a narrative and a dialogue, and when one or the other is useless to what it wants to accomplish.

Long story shortened, a blogging friend had a guest poster who was a black lady who was speaking on racism.  She had a tragic story of her own, and has struggled to get where she is.  The one thing I took as a point of controversy was a theory she had that, boiled down, says that black culture today in the USA is where it is because of slavery.  Yeah, you've heard that before, but wait, because that's not the whole thing and it makes some sense.  She points out that over the years of slavery, a black woman had to be the one to raise their family, because they never knew when the male, the husband, would be sold, or moved... or worse.  They had to come to depend upon themselves.  And because of this, the black woman has had to become accustomed to being that family head, to doing it all when the man's not there.

True, so far as it goes.  I tried to make pains to show that I would go THAT far.  But, as she went on, she tried to say that this is the reason that black society TODAY is in the state it's in, and that by extrapolation it is wrong of critics to place personal responsibility as the cause of any of the heartaches the black community suffers.  My words, not hers, but that was the impression I got.  So I commented on the place of personal responsibility in the equation as well.  Here's part of what I got in return:

So, basically, what you are asking is for black people to choose not to succumb to the pressure of the struggle, to overcome the discrimination on our own without asking yourself or the majority of white people to be accountable for the hows and whys of the way systemic, institutional racism and bias keeps us hobbled.

Notice the word "YOURSELF,"  which was to me, dumping me in with the problem without knowing anything about me other than the assumption of MY race.  I didn't care for that, as you might imagine, and it went back and forth, with me trying to explain why I said what I did, and her looking for what was wrong with what I said.  Finally, we came to what was really the crux of a disagreement that we shouldn't have even have been having:

 Your two cents vs my two cents are like the dollar vs the dinar. So as much as it might possibly hurt your feelings, no, a true dialogue is not what is asked for or needed in this context. But luckily cooperation does not require those qualifications. It only requires willingness to put your own perspective and ego on the back burner and let someone else have the front. It's not about doing what you're told to do, it's about sympathizing without putting your needs ahead of those you're trying to support. 

And there it was, in -if you'll excuse the unintended allusion- black and white.  It was never meant to be a dialogue.  The white person in her opinion had a place- to shut up, listen to whatever fabricated excuse she the suffering came up with, say, "Aw you poor thing,"  And go along with whatever solution she came up with.

But she had no solution, not even a hint of one.  She had a narrative, a dictation.  And what I had said, even though it was a complimentary part to what SHE was saying, should be kept to myself.

Go to the back of the bus.

I close my discussion with the author with this:

I'm not perfect, there are things that would make me uncomfortable. I realize that's because I come from a section of society that teaches that uncomfortable-ness, and I also realize it's up to me to change that for me. I can't expect society to change if the change isn't in my own heart. That works on both sides of the fence as well.

After that, another woman joined the fray, and that discussion turned ugly.  I will admit to my side of that, with this caveat-  I feel I was being accused of being racist, and then getting, "I never said that" back.  Not in so many words, but enough to yank my proverbial chain.  Rather than go into that useless and unproductive discussion, I will tell you MY narrative.

Growing up, I had two fathers.  One was the nice, funny, help anyone out father that I wish I would have known better.  But at least twice a week, he became the other one.  The other one would get drunk at the bar, have his good times, then return home to build up his self esteem.  He did that by pressing every button he could think of, whether it was untrue, or something from 10 years in the past.  He would pound at you and pound at you and pound at you, until you shouted at him.  Then he would calmly say in a slur, "Why are you yelling?  I'm not yelling."  And then, smirking over his victory and whatever shred of esteem it bought him, he'd start right out again.  I watched him do that to my mother for 12 years, too young to do anything about it, and when she passed, I spent the next five years on the receiving end.  Until it got to the point that, years after he died, I couldn't understand how people who'd never seen "the other" could possibly look at him in a positive light.

Years and prayer later, I finally got to that point.  But the scars remain.  And one of those scars is having impatience and anger towards those who know me from a comment section and tell me I'm something I'm not.  So I'll over explain, fight on long after I should just stop and say, this person has an agenda and will not listen.  And then I get MAD.Where the original author didn't get me there, the commenter certainly did.

That commenter said at one point, that I perceived that I was being told to shut up and go to the back of the bus, when I was only being told to let the author speak uninterrupted.  I took a little time and asked, "Did I do that?"  I don't think so.  She had the original post, which I read.  Then, and only then, did I comment.  It wasn't that I interrupted the author, but that I had the audacity to say my piece AFTER she was done.  I didn't interrupt the author, I soiled the narrative.  I didn't stop to realize she was speaking from the top of the mountain with tablets in each arm.  For that, I was told I was an arrogant racist.  For that, I was called insulting.  Frankly, I see only one thing I think was insulting in what I said, that to the last commenter:

I'm sorry that you are both more interested in telling everyone else how wrong and evil they are than trying to find common ground. You people seem less interested in eliminating racism by cultural education (which is where her post excelled, but has to go both ways) than you are in solving the problem by white capitualtion. Sorry, not buying that.

All I have left to say on the subject is, if you ever want DIALOGUE, feel free to stop in.  I have my opinions, and I will express them.  To my best recollection, I have never banned or blocked anybody that disagreed with me (with the possible exception of "John Rambo" and his he-man's-women-haters club).  But if I do disagree, prepare yourself for a response.  I don't think the guest poster at the blog in question was.


  1. You encountered the worst of the Internet - and I'm sorry.

    Not too long ago, a fellow blogger (young person) lost a bet with another friend and as a result, he had to walk to the store in a dress. The picture of him in the dress was funny; you could see his embarrassment. I laughed at the family member who basically said, "you should have warned me" and the comments from friends. It was a cute post.

    Joining in, I said something like "Bruce Jenner would approve." This was right in the middle of the media saturation of the Bruce Jenner transformation.

    Immediately, a stranger attacked me with "you're the #@$%# problem" with a link back to my FB page! There was nothing intended other than humor. He then launched into a tirade about how I was pretending to be tolerant, all the while, I was hateful and spiteful - basically, I was responsible for a worldwide prejudice. Whaaaa?

    The person doesn't know me from Adam; they know very little about me (BTW, we have similar stories...). And yet, they KNEW I must have been a terrible person. They're progressive and insightful (cough); or at least that is the hat they want to wear online. I won't even say it's cowardly to pick a fight online; it's just clueless and rude. Yet there is a never ending supply of people who want to do just that.

    As a person who likes humor, it's amazing to me that untold numbers of comedians and celebrities throw barbs at certain segments of society, but they'd cry foul if the tables turned.

    The Internet has more than its share of people who want to spout off about important and non-important issues. One thing I'm sure of, however, if you want to see true prejudice and unbalanced "freedom" of speech - go to the Internet. If you want to see a carnival of blame for society's woes - go to the Internet. If you want to see a plethora of "bandwagons" to jump on - well, you guessed it.

    Keeping writing, Chris.

    1. I definitely agree with your last paragraph. The unfortunate thing about the whole deal is the guest poster had some well-thought-out points... but unwillingness to "share the narrative" leaves her right where she started- Just talking to herself.

  2. Chris:
    As I was growing up and playing with kids and working with men and women who were black, there was never ANY contention between us, (got along better than some whites, in fact) and neither sacrificed one ethnicity (culture) for another JUST to "fit in" and not stir the pot.
    But, there are also those who carry a redwood on their shoulder...placed there after years of listening to ONE side of "the struggle story".
    Many people create their OWN prisons, and THEY have to live in them...not me.

    If they truly wanted to be enlightened, they would read HISTORY and LEARN from that...or better yet, come to appreciate the input from OTHERS who have dealt with problems and made it through such dark times on their own (or with help from a "higher authority")

    I have no trouble with a debate or dialogue either, but when the ONLY outcome is to "bow" to what the other person says, unconditionally, it becomes a waste of time (for me).

    Social media is replete with such folks (sad to say).
    I wish it were not, because I think this medium has the POTENTIAL to smooth over a lot of ruts in the road of life for a LOT of people.
    (But that's just my opinion)

    Very good post.

    Stay safe up there, brother.

    1. Unfortunately, too many want only to hear the sound of their own voices, and this was too important a topic to let that go.

  3. I saw the post in question and just refuse to post any kind of comment over there. And I have a feeling I'm not alone, since you are the only person that truly commented on it. One person agreed with you, and another person went on a Social Justice Warrior style rant against you. Everyone else, including myself, is scared to leave their opinion. Hmmm, I wonder why that is.

    BTW, Cherdo's (awesome, AWESOME) comment really resonates with me as a comedy writer. Not sure if you saw, but Jerry Seinfeld was recently talking about how in the stand up comedy world, it's an unspoken rule that you don't perform at college campuses because they are the breeding ground of overly PC BS. You're basically just asking to get yelled at for being "racist" or "sexist" or a "homophobe" by people who don't even understand what the f**k that word means.

    In other words, instead of battling the real racists/bigots/assholes of the world, Social Justice Warriors would rather just nitpick at the people who would otherwise be on their side, all in the holy crusade for political correctness and being "above" everyone else.

    Oh, you think you're right, buddy, but I'm 110% more right than you are! And you're a hate-filled, bigoted, racist homophobe for even THINKING of disagreeing with what I say!

  4. First of all, THANK YOU. Nuff said there, as Stan would put it.

    Second, the Seinfeld quote blew me away. I mean, I wouldn't have thought someone like him would have the courage to say something that would alienate so many so-called "supporters". Nice to know he knows who his real fans are.

    SJWs. I'll have to use that.

    At this point though, I'd like to point out that I left a mouse trap in this post- something that someone could bust me on, but if they did, it would really drive my point home. Not that hard to set, if you're willing to admit to being wrong on something. Which means my erstwhile debaters wouldn't dare do something like it...

  5. You are not the only one to have experience this, I have too in the past but the older I get the less these things bother me