Last weekend we were eating brunch in a hotel restaurant. Things were slow and the waiter was chatty, so we chatted back. And then all of a sudden the conversation took a weird dark turn. He was talking about his kids, about how boys these days can wind up medicated for being a little wigglier than average. He was saying he thought boys had a particularly tough time of it. What I was trying to say in response was, "Hey, it's not super-easy to be a girl either." But boom, he was off to the races -- to the Hippodrome of Delusion, specifically. He told us that the women speaking up as part of the #MeToo movement had chosen freely to acquiesce to the demands of their alleged harassers so that they could get ahead. He'd lived in LA for 25 years, he told us. Happens all the time there.
I mean. Where do you even go from there?
Tonight I was asked to man a table at a career fair for homeschoolers. I was next to a psych nurse who was also a homeschooling mom. You guys, there were so many things I wanted to ask her about. Like: it's interesting to me that you are telling these students they have to nail their high school science courses if they want to be nurses, but also using a creationist science curriculum with your own kids. (Maybe you need to know me in real life to know that I wouldn't have said it in an accusatory way. But is that not an interesting juxtaposition?) We were talking around a bunch of interesting stuff. Like: she was saying it was frustrating that she couldn't pick up a newspaper any more without being bombarded by bias dressed up as news. She was saying journalists used to get fired if they had undisclosed connections with people or topics on which they were reporting. I wanted to say, "So I think you're telling me that you prefer Fox News to traditional sources, but surely we can agree that the Sean Hannity/Michael Cohen connection is problematic." Instead I just said, "This has been an especially interesting week for thinking about bias in journalism."
On those introvert/extrovert items (or extravert if you're an old-school personality tester) I always split the scale right down the middle. I get overwhelmed in big groups of people (I'm still coming down from the career fair), but I love striking up conversations with strangers -- taxi drivers or parents at the park. It's always been the case that a conversation with a stranger could shift unexpectedly -- I'm thinking specifically about an early 00s taxi driver arguing emphatically for the wisdom and benevolence of Robert Mugabe -- but it feels different now.
There are so many places to put a foot wrong these days. I would bet you money that when I said, "Oh, I just read this heartbreaking story in the New York Times" (we were talking about Christians and racial injustice), that my career-fair neighbor had a little "...oh, she reads the NYT" moment. But polarization is bad news for truth. Right at this moment on Twitter if you click the #ComeyMemos hashtag you will see that people are looking at the same sets of facts and coming to opposite conclusions. #ComeyMemos exonerate the president! #ComeyMemos incriminate the president!
Those things cannot both be true. I don't really know where we go from here.