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.

Mini rant followed by a personal happy


It does NOT matter how good or bad a leader is at every other aaspect of their job. If they fail to condemn lies, bad acts, and even atrocities committed in their name, they are themselves in the wrong.

There is no morality balance sheet when it comes to choosing leaders. Good deeds do not balance out bad once.

If you say, “Yes, but_____” (for example, “Yes, that’s bad, but it isn’t him doing it, and sure he isn’t coming out against it, but he’s done this good thing or that good thing…”) you are accepting the YES part. It’s on you.

So if you say, “Yes, but Trump isn’t a dangerous rabble-rousing, racist bigot just because some people who follow him are, he’s a good businessman, and he’s done great things for foreign policy…”

I won’t argue with you. Imma look you straight in the eye and remind you that Hitler loved dogs and Mussolini made the trains run on time and you’re deliberately supporting a bad moral position with a bad faith argument and a bad debate tactic, and doing so means you aren’t interested in listening, only denying.

And then Imma avoid you on the internet until February or so. (That’s assuming you don’t unfriend & block me, which is probably optimistic, but I’m Sunshine Care Bear I guess?)

There are millions who welcomed this presidential circus in ’16 and want it to continue, and they’re seriously fucked up and not worth engaging.

Now I figure about 20 million are suffering from deadly cases of sunk-cost fallacy, and another 20 million are so fond of the misinformation the’ve been given that they would glue the scales right back onto their eyes if God themself appeared on the road to reveal the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

Bottom line, I see no point in engaging with anyone from those groups. I love a good, meaty political discussion, but online, I bring steaks to the grill and get handed soy burgers for my plate. No, thank you.

ANYway.

I’m feeling grouchy today.

Tired of watching misinformed people full of the arrogance of their ignorance harass people who are trying to save them. We’ve reached a point in this out-of-control-again pandemic in which people are dying with COVID-19 denials on their lips instead of prayers.

It didn’t have to be this way. It isn’t this way anywhere else on Earth, not even in the other worst-hit developed countries.
(Except maybe Great Britain, with Trump-lite? And possibly Sweden? LOOK UP THE STATS YOURSELF I BET I’M RIGHT THIS IS JUST MY BLOG THINKING HERE KTHXBAI.)

In any case, for sure the numbers are public and the comparisons are painful. COVID-19 is a scary disease, but what’s really deadly is ‘Murica.

But that’s another post. I digressed again. ANYway.

Here’s the happy thing: SOMEONE WROTE FAN FICTION in the Rough Passages world.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I found this out a little while ago, but I’m gonna keep sitting in that bright happy-happy spot for a good, long time. This was an Author Achievement Trophy I didn’t expect to unlock for…ever, tbh.

I’ve updated my Achievement Trophies page on the site here and got another happy surprise. I’ve collected almost all the trophies I set out to unlock when I started this whole publishing game. You know what that means?

I’ve leveled up!

I shall put on my thinking cap & come up with a new set of trophies to unlock. Ideas welcomed. I may not USE any of them, but I love reading clever ideas.

And lastly, a weekly status report:

Sharp Edge of Yesterday is ~5/6 of the way done now, and I should finish the last of the pt 5 revisions this weekend. I’ve laid in one extra plot development scene and expanded a second, and I’m going to skip the remaining planned one because…I don’t know that this story needs it? Sure, it would develop that character, but she isn’t the protag, and it would slow down pacing just at the point I’m trying to push events faster. So unless feedback really thinks it needs to be ‘on screen’ so to speak, I’m saving moving onwards to other stuff. Squishy, angsty aftermath stuff that will set up later stories.

<cue evil laughter>

That’s all the all until later.

Except for this cute pupper picture. Click it & you might end up on my Bookshop.org page where you could look at my growing collection of book lists & perhaps even get some gift ideas.

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

Masks. Is yours comfy?

Early in the Age of Mask Mandates I noticed a puzzling thing: I had adapted MUCH more easily to wearing masks than others I knew.

Masks leaves a large percentage of my friends feeling breathless or dizzy, they give people headaches or leave them exhausted after a short time. They hurt. My friends are NOT using these problems as excuses to endanger themselves or others by going mask-free, mind you, but they do suffer major discomfort to be safe and save others.

But me? I’m not suffering. I find masks relatively comfy. This surprised and puzzled me, because as a rule, I have major problems adjusting to new physical demands. (Just ask my very, VERY patient optician.)

So why has mask-wearing been such a breeze? The answer came to me, after much pondering, while washing my face after a 3-hour mask-wearing shift at work.

I don’t mind masks because I was a competitive swimmer for six years, and I’ve spent countless hours swimming laps for exercise in the years since.

No, seriously. Here’s what I’ve learned from playing in the pool:

  1. Swim caps & goggle taught me how to endure the literal pain of straps and seals diging into my head. Anything that presses near the ears or nose, covers the sides of the head, or ties above the neck in back can lead to mysterious, horrendous headaches. You learn which precises spots on your head will tolerate intrusions by trial and error, and even then, tiny adjustments make a huge difference. I do all that without thinking.
  2. Wearing goggles also taught me how to tune out the sensation of things grinding against my cheeks and sinuses. Yes, that matters. We all have lots of nerves there. New experiences and sensations are exhausting even when they’re nice ones. Masks aren’t nice.
  3. Lap swimming taught me how to override my body’s interpretation of pressure. There’s nothing natural about putting your face into water and convincing your lungs it’s FINE, GO AHEAD AND WORK. Inhaling deeply when your senses tell you there’s resistance goes against instinct and sets off an unconscious stress response. Cloth doesn’t create that much resistance to inhaling, but it doesn’t take much to make the experience stressful. And stress = headaches, weariness, and anxiety. Me? I just…tune it out.
  4. Swimming taught me breathing discipline. Exertion in water ups the volume on that constant “not enough air getting through!” message the brain is sending. There is no way to compete without passing out from O2 deprivation unless you re-learn how to breathe in specific resistance-avoidance ways.
    Now that I’m looking for it, I catch myself breathing in through my mouth and giveing the breath a little deeper oomph than I “normally” would whenever my mask rides up against my nose. And then I exhale just that tiny bit more forcefully through the nose than I would without the mask on. Exactly as when I’m swimming.
  5. Competition taught me the importance of evaluating equipment. Comfort, looks, and performance all matter, but comfort has to be priority 1. If my cap gave me headaches, my goggles fogged, or my suit dragged, they weren’t right for ME, even if the whole Olympic swim team swore by them. Whichever one fits me best, meets the monimum specs and won’t get me disqualified.
    Same for masks. I don’t understand anyone who accepts the first mask type as the Only Type. I went through 5 styles and 3 different material combinations to find ones that I can wear all day.
    I am aware not everyone can afford that, but I think everyone should learn that they CAN find a different mask if the one they’re wearing is uncomfortable.
  6. Swimming also taught me how to accurately gauge a 6′ distance, to avoid touching my face, and to read people’s emotional state when half their features are obscured, but those skills aren’t quite as critical as the other ones.

Are masks the best thing ever? Ugh, no. I hear people better when I can see their lips move. I have a better chance of interpreting non-verbal cues correctly if I can see mouths as well as eyes and bodies. They fog my glasses. They make my face sweat. I constantly want to fidget with them.

But the kind of serious issues that make healthy people understandably unhappy about wearing them at all? Nope.

Last little point of interest: people masking up hasn’t significantly affected my ability to identify them. That isn’t a trick from swimming, though. That’s an unexpected silver lining to my faulty facial recognition software. I didn’t recognize people by faces before they wore masks!

So for me, a mask is just another head accessory, and I am thankful for that. I suspect I’ll be wearing one in public spaces for a quite some time yet. So it’s a good thing I love having the right accessories.

I am curious how all y’all are dealing with Mask Life. If you want to share which of your life experiences have helped you make your peace with wearing them, I’d love to read about it.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Until later!

gold carnival mask with red feathered headdress
This is not a protective mask, but it is pretty.