Thursday, March 5, 2020

Fear... Of Other

Why are we so afraid of people who are different from us?

I recently had lunch with some people who are far left-wing Democrats. Not quite Bernie Sanders Democrats but very leftist nevertheless. Our other luncheon companions were conservative Republicans.  Again, not far right-wing Neo-Nazi Trump supporters, but people who voted for Trump and think that maybe some of the things he's done are pretty good, even if they don't agree with his Twitter account.

Needless to say, there was a lot of tension.  Unnecessary tension.

The problem is, of course, that we refuse to listen to one another. People like to talk in an echo chamber, hearing their own opinions validated and tuning out that which they don't want to hear.  It is funny, but you can stand right next to someone - even a friend or loved one, and say something at an audible level, and they will pretend not to hear you.   They may hear you at a physical level, but not at a mental one - they literally "tune out" what you are saying.

Sometimes I have to shout or tug at Mark's elbow to get him to listen, for example.  I can say, "Mark, your pants are on fire" and he will continue chatting with someone as the smoke slowly rises.  I can repeat myself, several times, before I have to grab his elbow and shout in his ear.  And he'll say, "What!" as if my alerting him was a rude interruption.   People are funny that way.  They hear what they want to hear, read what they want to read, and ignore the rest.

Maybe it is the Asperger's syndrome several readers have diagnosed in me, but I hear everything which can be painful at times, particularly in groups.   But this also means, I try to listen to people I don't agree with.  It doesn't cost me anything, and sometimes it is enlightening - not only to learn their opinions on things, but how they came to have them.   Sometimes there is a triggering event in life, or their life situation that pushes them in a particular direction.

And you don't have to agree with them - or argue with them, either.   As I noted before, I just nod and say, "You may very well  be right about that!" and move on.    They think I've agreed with them, but I haven't.  And no, it isn't that important to "school" them in political correctness or your own views.  Not only is it ineffective, it doesn't accomplish much other than to alienate yet one more person from your life. People with strong political views become lonely people pretty quickly, and end up spiraling into more and more politics, until they lose their minds and you read about them in the paper - or they get tackled by Jill Biden.

Fear is not an emotion to be trusted, and when we fear others, it blocks us from learning and communicating with them - two things which can break down this fear.   Instead, fear bootstraps into more fear, and people retreat into their carefully nurtured ideological fortresses.

And that is just sad.