Some awkward conversations

This one is for my friends who are struggling with the questions, “How can people believe these things?” and “How did we get here?” after the events at the US Capitol Building and sundry other places on 6 January, 2021. This one is about dealing with the people we know who even now cling to lies in support of violent insurrectionists.*

My sorta comprehensive answer is “It’s been a bumpy decades-long road paved with bad intentions, and many of the people who say these horrible things don’t believe in them. The lies serve them, or did, right up to point they don’t The others who spread them want to believe as badly as Agent Mulder wanted to believe in aliens and for the same reason: the lies give them meaning and the comfort of purpose in a harsh and meaningless world.”

The two articles below dig up the foundations of the nasty place American Culture has become. Fair warning, they’re from Patheos.com, which means they’re informed by Christian traditions, so if that offends, stick to the TL;DR summaries. That said, I HIGHLY recommend the Slacktivist blog by Fred Clark.

1: Bad Faith In Witch Hunts And Moral Panics TL;DR summary: The mix of self-interested lying leadership & want-to-believe followers on obscene display in the 1/6 Ku Klux Coup is all familiar to any nerd who lived through the Satanic Panic years. There wasn’t an epidemic of satanic child abuse then, the elections weren’t stolen this year.

2: The IndigNation TL;DR summary: indignation is a hell of a drug, & guilt is painful. It’s human nature to prefer comforting lies that feed resentment over truths that require admitting fault. The seductive righteousness of narratives about welfare queens, black violence, predatory criminals, lazy immigrants, and other LIES is all tangled up in this ugly facet of being human and fallible.

My takeaway from these two explainers: steadfast defense of facts is vital & necessary. Be indignant in the cause of truth. Push back as hard as you’re being pushed. Raise an unassailable wall of reality.

I’m not saying anyone should debate with LieBelievers. That way lies exhaustion & burnout. Don’t go there. It’s a dead end.

Deny, drop, and deflect. Or question & drop if, like me, you prefer putting a nice rubber coating on your wall.

NOTE: all this assumes you can’t or don’t want to cut LieBelievers out of your life entirely. That is a valid choice, and one I support. Do what keeps you healthy and safe! But if you plan maintain relationships with the lie-addicted, here’s a few sample examples of how to raise an indignant wall that repels argument.

“The election was stolen.”
“You don’t really believe that.”
“It’s true! There’s tons of proof.”
“No, there isn’t, because it isn’t true. How ’bout them Cubbies, though, huh?” (change the subject to something irresistable to your chosen audience.)
–> PRO TIP: repeat that last part in a firm and friendly tone until they give up & move on. With family, it can take two or three firm repetitions.

“Biden has dementia.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Haven’t you ever listened him? He’s obviously mental.”
“Huh. Yeah, I’ve listened to hours and hours of speeches. But if you want to believe that, go ahead. It isn’t worth arguing about.”**
“No, you don’t understand–” (or any other attempt to continue the discussion.)
“Nope. I do understand. Anyway, let’s talk about that puppy you adopted. How’s she doing?”
–> and repeat the deny-disengage-deflection until they give up & move on.

“This pandemic response is overblown.”
“You can’t believe that, do you?”
“I do! People are losing their jobs, kids are getting depressed, we need to get back to normal.”
“Wow. Okay, no, but I’m not going to talk about it with you because you won’t like what I have to say. Tell me how you’re doing with <insert topic here>”
–> repeat that last part etc etc.

Deny. Drop. Deflect. Rinse & repeat.

The use of the word believe is deliberate and important. Don’t give lies the dignity of being “thoughts” or “opinions.” But! You don’t feed the conflict by calling them out as lies, either. Diminish them with pure, solid dismissal.

This isn’t, “you have your opinion, I have mine, let’s agree to disagree.” This is, “You’re poisonously wrong, it isn’t my place to cure you, so I’m containing the poison.”

No one who spreads these lies is thinking about them. Yes, they’ve all “thought hard about it” and “done the research,” and they do believe they have done that because they want to believe. (Or they’re deliberately, knowingly throwing out ‘controversial’ ideas because they’re pot-stirring agitating instigators, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue. Also a read-flag reason to refuse the bait and redirect the convo.)

From my side, being told I’m believing something immediately triggers an important critical process: questioning WHY I believe it. The Slacktivist blog tagline is one of the reasons I love it so much. “Test everything. Hold fast to what is good.”

That’s a good motto to live by.

I go over a “you believe” conversation in my head multiple times later and in private, and I investigate the facts that were challenged. And I do that research using new sources, not the ones I used to get to my original viewpoint. Do I change my mind? All the time. Do LieBelievers? It’s possible. Learning is lifelong. You never know what will spark an epiphany.

And if you spot people in your life refusing to discuss your beliefs…well. You might want to do some serious questioning, reflection and new research.

person wearing flag shirt holding both hands over their face.
Image by Ajju prasetyo from Pixabay

That’s enough blog.Onward to other news

I’m wrapping up Day 5 of 7 in my Ghost Town draft. What’s th new project about? Little downstate Illinois college town, new police chief who talks to her great-great-granddad’s ghost, and the county’s first murder in twenty years. What could go wrong?

The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday is out for final continuity checks & is listing for March 23 release.

Until later!

*don’t @ me with anything like “but BLM or any other false equivalencies, what-about-ism’s or other logical fallacies. Do you really believe the George Floyd riots and the Red Hat Insurrection are the same? REALLY? Okay, then. You’re wrong, but we can talk about something else.

**in case you don’t know me well, my emotional read on all phrases like “you’re not worth arguing with,” “this isn’t worth arguing about” and “we’re not talking about this,” is as deadly conversational insults. They are messages of Ultimate Disrespect. I accept that I am delivering disrespect along with my denial. Nah, tbh, I REVEL in that part. I don’t respect lies. And, hey, some people think those phrases means they’ve won the conversation. That just adds a delicious little spice to the exchange.

How long can I feel happiness and existential dread at the same time?

It looks like a win. It sure as shit FEELS like a win, and Imma soak up this feel for a while yet. (And I’ve already rolled up my sleeves and pulled out the checkbook to support Senate runoffs and county-level organizers in states who are eager to build up their community political infrastructure and keep this movement…moving.)

I’ve already lost friends because I refuse to not celebrate, because my celebrating in my own spaces is somehow hurtful to them but their direct mockery of me four years ago–also in MY spaces, as comments–was totally okay, because standards are only unfair when they’re affected…but I digress, as one does.

I’m as stressed as I am happy, and I will be until December 23, or such time before then if the GOP’s use-the-machinery-against-itself long con finally succeeds and we end up with an unelected dictator for four years minimum and become the world’s laughingstock forever.

How I can be thrilled about the projected numbers, the historic turnout, and successful re-enfranchisement efforts etc AND still be terrified it won’t last? Two words: electoral shenanigans.

The presidential part of this election ain’t over until the Electors vote & their votes are recorded–and that won’t happen for entirely too many days for my peace of mind. There’s many a slip twixt ballot box and inauguration stand, and I know too much history to be sanguine about the state of our union right now.

Here’s a handy timeline for the clown-car slow-motion shitshow that is our Electoral College system, courtesy of the Associated Press. https://apnews.com/article/biden-wins-electoral-college-trump-511b69134b9120a2f114e6781a54da84

And if you were thinking, “Hey, this seems unreasonably complicated and unnecessary,”as you read it, you’re right! The Electoral College was specifically designed to keep the election of our president LESS democratic. (If you’re thinking, “AP, pfft, fake news, you are possibly in the wrong blog.”)

I’ve had a soapbox labeled “amend away the fershlugginer Electoral College already, FFS” under my desk for decades.

BUT I DIGRESS.

The AP timeline doesn’t tackle allof the potential issues. So. Here are some are important dates in my hope/fear timeline:
1320 November, 2020. Most states will announce their certified official vote tallies from the November 3 election during this window. Until each state announces its certified, official results, the posted vote totals are provisional, subject to litigation, recounts, and general fooferall.

Now, there are literal books’ worth of laws protecting vote counts from fraud, and thousands of eyes from both parties on the tallying at all times. Organized fraud just cannot long endure where paper ballots are used and their count is being watched by many people. Sadly, there are whole swaths of the US where electronic ballots can still…vaporize.

BUT. With the exception of the Georgia recount (which I have no faith will end any better than Florida in 2000) I expect the system will cough up certified totals reflecting the projected ones. So. So far, so good.

BUT! (there’s always a but, alas)

14 December, 2020 is when the Electoral College votes are cast, and no state’s popular vote matters a hill of beans until the Electors cast their votes according to rules that vary from state to state. And the potential for the Electoral Vote to go wrong is both real and flatly terrifying.

Litigation and challenges are already in progress, and challenges could easily go to the current Supreme Court, which has recently abandoned any pretense of judicial impartiality and bent the term ‘originalism’ to translate as ‘whatever we want it to mean.” And some members (Hi, Bret Kavanaugh!) support hella wacko positions regarding the interpretation of Bush v. Gore from 2000.

There’s a non-zero chance state legislatures in up to 17 states could nullify the will of their own electorates. It’s slim, and based on a questionable technicality (here’s an article on it: https://www.lawfareblog.com/state-legislatures-cant-ignore-popular-vote-appointing-electors ) but any non-zero chance of a big decision reaching our current Supreme Court is enough to give me nightmares.

23 December, 2020: Electoral votes must be reported and certified by this date. So. If we get this far with a Biden/Harris victory intact, that will make for a very nice “the sun will return” solstice present. If we do not, I will angry, I’ll be sad that I’m witnessing the suicidal death throes of American democracy, but I won’t be shocked.

January 6: The Electoral votes will finally get tallied in Congress and the results are announced. By the Vice President. I plan to watch C-Span.

20 January, 2021: Inauguration Day. For someone.

I’ll be riding this hope-fear swing pretty hard for 71 more days.

IN THE MEANTIME, to keep my mind off All The Things I’ll be finishing Sharp Edge Of Yesterday, (November is National Finish My Fucking Revisions Month!) then tackling the first draft of Ghost Town because I hate leaving projects unfinished, and setting up Sharp Edge for publication.

That’s all until later.

Writer Reading Report: A Deadly Education

A Deadly Education released on 29 September, 2020, and I could not be more excited to tell the world about it. (I received an ARC through NetGalley so I’ve been sitting on this for a bit.)

Below the description you’ll find a gushing review, but the TL;DR is this: this is GOBSMACKINGLY good and I hope it wins awards and becomes a huge epic series because it is made of familiar ideas twisted on their ears and so thumped hard they became AN ASTONISHING NEW THING.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

(from the NetGalley description.)

I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life.

Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I’m concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I’m not joining his pack of adoring fans.

I don’t need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts, I’m probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I’ll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world.

At least, that’s what the world expects me to do. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that’s crawled out of the drains. Sometimes I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school itself certainly does.

But the Scholomance isn’t getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone’s idea of the shining hero, but I’m going to make it out of this place alive, and I’m not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either.

Although I’m giving serious consideration to just one.

I don’t think I have ever related to a protagonist so hard. Galadriel Higgins and her struggles to be herself and be a real human being kept me up past my bedtime and got me out of bed early two days running.

  1. This is a wizard school without teachers. It’s a death trap. Graduation is escape. (That isn’t a spoiler. It’s the PREMISE.)
  2. These are kids wrestling with big issues and growing up without the slightest bit of direct adult guidance, and the way they fumble through their relationships is raw and awkward
  3. The magic system is brilliantly self-contained and internally consistent and yet the way magic is woven into the story keeps it mysterious and uncontrollable and also a limited resource and a hazard–it’s EVERYTHING. I love the way its use and abuse and availability never stand in for any other kind of worldly power. Magic is just another whole axis of power & privilege added to the complexity of being human.

This had BETTER be the first of a series. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but dangggggg, I want so much more of this world & these characters.

AAGGGHHHH I DON’T WANT TO WAIT ANOTHER YEAR OR MORE. But I will. I will do what I must. I will be patient. And I’ll re-read this a time or few before then. Just to visit these characters.

That’s it for this time. Until later, happy reading!