Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Anti, anti, anti

I was just reading joelrosenberg's latest entry, wherein he talks about some issues a student had with a previous class. (For those of you who don't read Joel's journal, he teaches gun safety and carrying courses and is fairly active and outspoken in that area.) His student had run into rampant racism at a previous course, and Joel was talking about handling race in the context of his courses and also giving quick pointers to gun permit holders about traffic stops. Someone anonymous commented in his journal, "Air all dirty laundry in public. That's a terrific idea. Don't you know that many of the antis read this journal? You moron."

I don't agree with Joel on every point of his entire life philosophy -- I don't even know every point of his life philosophy. But the anonymous commenter pressed one of my more general buttons pretty hard.

The antis. It doesn't matter what your cause is, if you have one, there are likely antis running around out there. People who disagree with you. People who think you're wrong and possibly dangerous. And folks like Mr. Anonymous seem to firmly believe that the last thing we want to do is tell the truth to anyone who disagrees with us. Those antis disagree firmly, permanently, and reasonlessly, after all; if they had any sense, they would be on our side already. Their sole goal is to make us look bad. Doesn't matter who "us" is. Anything negative about anyone who might possibly claim to be on "our" team is strictly taboo, because it will only give the antis more ammunition.

Except there's this: people live in the world. Obvious, yes, I know, but often forgotten. So if you tell people -- on your side or some other side -- that anyone who holds Position X in common with you is pure as the driven snow, you don't get to immediately lock them in your closet afterwards. They get to go out into the world. They get to observe people. They get to notice that some Christians ignore most of Jesus' best material. They get to notice that some Democrats really don't give a flying fornication about the poor. They get to notice that doctors, physicists, politicians, people all make mistakes. They get to notice that whatever group you're trying to portray as perfect is composed of human beings, and is as imperfect as any other group of human beings, which is to say: highly so.

Lying and hiding things will come back and bite your butt. If Joel was to say, "There is no such thing as a racist gun owner; that's a myth," then the minute his listener ran into a racist gun owner, everything else Joel said about it would be suspect. If, on the other hand, he says, "yep, these folks are out there, just like in any other group, but the majority of people I know aren't like them, and here's how I deal with racial issues instead," his listener doesn't have an automatic reason to throw out everything else he's said.

Many people are taught as kids not to air their family's dirty laundry. And that works to a certain extent -- if your mom snores or your dad farts a lot, the world does not need to hear it. But we're rarely trying to convince someone to join our family, and when we do, we tell the truth. Because if we don't, they will find out anyway, and we will have damaged or destroyed their trust in us. We're often trying to convince people of our viewpoints, so the trust and the credibility are even more immediately useful.

I've talked about this before with anti-drug programs in schools. If you tell kids that one whiff of pot smoke will turn them into raving heroin junkie dropouts, they will go to college (if they even get that far) and notice that the kid down the hall smokes up from time to time and manages to pull a decent GPA, stays involved in interests/activities, etc. And then everything else you told them is suspect, and rightly so, because you lied.

But it's an even bigger button that this anonymous guy pushed than that. Many people want to believe that doing something wrong is more effective than doing something right. They want to believe that lies are more effective than truth, that coverups are more effective than openness, that torture is more effective than human rights, that shooting is more effective than diplomacy. They want to believe that the bad things they want to do will get them where they want to go, because then they have both the sin and the justification wrapped up in one. I'm doing it for a greater good. No. You're not.

Doing the right thing doesn't make us suckers. Sometimes it looks like it will in the short-term. But if you hold a belief strongly, your goal should be to get those antis on your side, and to keep it a side that you're willing to be on. Lying sure doesn't help with that.
Tags: social fail, the art of the possible

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