A Matter of Perspective


I’m still whittling away at Never Surrender, but it’s been difficult for a variety of reasons. First, it’s been four years since these characters last skulked through my subconscious, and it’s hard to lure them back. Second, by necessity I’ve had to spend a lot of time on a revenue-generating project that hasn’t yet panned out. And third, I’m missing and mourning the characters from The McCall Initiative. But the biggest problem, really, is the political climate. It’s been such an enormous distraction. I can’t go on Facebook without reading a shocking post made by a person I’ve always respected. I can’t read a news story on a local channel’s website without being blindsided by the ugly comments below it. The perpetrators aren’t people who merely disagree with each other. They’re so full of hatred and bitterness that they use the most insulting, angry, vitriolic language they can muster. It used to be that people could disagree on a topic but still respect each other. Now, if they can’t immediately wrap their head around what another person is thinking, instead of taking a moment to try to understand, they simply pull out their big red “WRONG!” stamp and slam it down on the conversation. They use their righteous indignation (which usually isn’t so righteous) as permission to condemn their opposition without giving any consideration to their reasons.

Sometimes it’s not ugly and hateful like that, but it’s still a mind-blowing difference of perspective. Case in point: the Women’s March. One of my Facebook friends, someone I have the utmost respect and compassion for, had a surprising interpretation of a statement some women made about marching for those who couldn’t be there. This individual thought that meant they were marching on her behalf, against her will. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The people I encountered when I attended our local march here in Portland weren’t trying to force any belief down anyone else’s throat. In fact, one of the basic principals of progressive thought is “What you believe is your business, so long as you don’t try to force it on me or anyone else.” If these people said they were marching for other women, they were talking about women who supported the cause but couldn’t be there. Women like my friend Rose, who uses a walker and was incapable of navigating the crowd, or my friend Alice who no longer feels comfortable driving unfamiliar roads, or countless other friends who were recovering from nasty bugs.

Another misunderstanding (magnified by the language choices of some celebrities at the Washington march, as well as the prevalence of pussyhats), was that any positive messages brought about by the event were outweighed by dirty, low class immoral ideas. I’d like to explain the whole pussyhat thing to those who don’t get it. It’s not about being vulgar or defining oneself by a certain body part. It’s about reclaiming usurped power. It’s about defiance. The first thing to understand is that the majority of these women aren’t bandying about low-class terminology merely for shock value. They simply see the word “pussy” as less offensive than the misogynistic, bullying, entitled attitude behind the incident that spawned the whole movement. An attitude that absolutely must be addressed. They see this as a way to shine a light on a dangerous, backward mentality. I actually saw someone arguing that this term shouldn’t be used because it brings up something Trump said that is best ignored. The trouble with this reasoning is that Donald Trump is not a bratty child whose negative behavior can be moderated by pretending we didn’t see it. He’s the leader of the free world, and that means—for the safety of not just everyone in this country but everyone on the planet—he has to be held to the highest of standards. This is a man who can start a nuclear war with one careless tweet. And if you want to dismiss that thought as paranoid, you might take a moment to consider some of the crazy individuals who are leading other countries. People with terrorist mentalities who would gladly assume the role of suicide bomber for the planet in order to be right.

To get back to the whole pussyhat thing, I understand that some people find that sort of talk vulgar—that it honestly offends them. It took a bit of thought, though, for me to reach a point where I could empathize, because this position is outside my own experience. The language doesn’t bother me. It’s not that I condone it, it just doesn’t trip my censors the way it does for some people. So what does offend me? People who abandon their cat when they move because “it’s not a real pet.” People who cut the ears off dogs for kicks. People who make snap judgments about Jews, Hindus, Muslims (and yes, CHRISTIANS), based on nothing but a label. People who make fun of a little boy on Twitter because they don’t agree with his father’s politics. People who think it’s okay to brag about dominating women by grabbing them by their genitals.

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But I’m getting off topic. The point is, I understand the perspective of those who have issues with certain elements of the Women’s March. I get why some people would be offended by seeing women ring their faces with hats shaped like giant vaginas. (Yeah, that actually happened.) I respect that they don’t want to look at things like that. And I certainly wouldn’t be inconsiderate enough to do something crass like show up to their dinner party wearing a pussyhat to get them to “loosen up.” (That sort of bullying, self-righteous attempt at “education” does nothing to promote understanding and only demonstrates a lack of compassion.) The bottom line is, I don’t expect these people to agree that references to this part of the anatomy aren’t offensive. I simply hope they’ll consider my insights so they’ll no longer harbor misconceptions about the motivation for the Women’s March.

Do you see what I did there? *Makes an I’m-looking-at-you-gesture at culprits on both sides of the political aisle.* I made the effort to understand an opposing point of view instead of simply condemning it. I didn’t attempt to talk anyone out of their beliefs. I simply implored those who disagree with me to try to wrap their heads around how I see things, not so they’ll change their position, but so they’ll comprehend my perspective the way I comprehend theirs. So they can say, “Yeah, that’s totally not where I’m at, but I get why you believe it.” So we can continue to respect one another and focus on the things we have in common.

Wouldn’t Facebook and Twitter and family get-togethers be a lot less stressful if we could all step up like that?

Wouldn’t it make it a lot easier for me to write this damned book?

~ Lisa


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9 Responses to A Matter of Perspective

  1. Sharon White says:

    Thank you Lisa. I trust you did find some hope in the solidarity and connection. Indeed if God is in the details the Goddess is in the connections.

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  2. rose l. says:

    You always impress me with your way of writing and getting a point across. No wonder you are such an excellent author. You navigate the language and thoughts so well. Thank you.

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  3. All valid points stated very well. Hope you can reclaim your mojo and get back to your book. Eventually these characters just might come up behind you, tap you on the shoulder, and say, “Hey, don’t forget about us!”

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    • Lisa Nowak says:

      Thanks, Mark. I sure hope you’re right about the book. I guess I just need to stay away from Facebook. Normally, that’s not a problem, but with all the stir from the inauguration and Women’s March, that was hard to do.

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  4. lexacain says:

    I’m very impressed by your well-written point of view. (I didn’t really understand the pussy hats either, but I sort of get it now.) The only problem is by not condemning those who support someone whose rhetoric SHOULD be condemned, we almost become silent bystanders to a crime. People should be allowed to have their own beliefs, but only if those beliefs don’t try to outlaw personal freedoms for others. Soon the Republicans will start outlawing important freedoms because they’re following their bibles. Just like the other conservative extremists around the world, especially in 3rd world countries, outlaw things based on their religions. No one should accept conservative authoritarianism no matter where it is, and I’ll never “try to see the point of view” of those who support it.

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    • Lisa Nowak says:

      Lexacain, I suspect that politically we are pretty closely aligned, so let me just state that up front. But I also want to explain my position, because I think you might find it will help you with your goals.

      Long ago, I discovered that I seemed to have a knack for watching an argument and seeing the root causes for why people were talking right past each other and getting nowhere. I found I could act as a sort of mediator to get each side to see the others’ point. I’m not saying I got them to abandon their long-held values, but rather that I helped eliminate the miscommunication that was keeping them from understanding each other. The crazy thing was, often they were almost on the same page, but the language and emotion of the argument were getting in the way of them realizing that.

      More and more, I’m seeing people never get to the point of having an honest political discussion because they get hung up in anger and the name calling. If you truly want to get another person to understand your point of view, you have to realize a couple of things. The first is that they feel as strongly about their beliefs as you do about yours, and you’re not going to sway them by simply telling them they’re wrong. If you think about this, it makes sense. You certainly wouldn’t give up your beliefs that easily. The second thing is, you have to try to figure out where they’re coming from. If you get so hung up on condemning that you can’t wrap your head around why they believe what they believe, you have no hope of getting them to see your point. Think of it in terms of a battle. No army is just going to charge headlong at the opposing army. They’re going to study the situation, try to figure out what strategy the other side is using, and then form a plan based on that intel. An army can’t take out the opposition without understanding its strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t stomach the idea, based only on compassion, of seeing the point of view of someone who accepts conservative authoritarianism, then maybe you can accept that it will help you get further in your effort to change minds. Often, I think you’ll find that the people you’re arguing with don’t actually support things in quite the way you think they do. Often, both sides are making assumptions based on stereotypes. For example, sometimes people automatically share things on Facebook just because they’re going along with the crowd, but if you approach them in a non-confrontational way, they’ll realize it’s having a more negative affect than they intended, and they’ll stop.

      The bottom line is, it’s much more effective to plant a seed that makes a person start truly thinking about an issue in a critical, rational way than it is to flat-out win an argument. And in order to plant that seed, you have to understand how that person thinks, what they value, and why. You don’t ever have to agree with it or condone it, but understanding it is the key to initiating effective communication. The key question to consider is, “Do I need to prove I’m right at this exact moment, or do I want to make real and lasting change?”

      Here’s a short video that explains a little more about how to have effective political conversations. I think you’ll find it helpful. http://www.ted.com/talks/robb_willer_how_to_have_better_political_conversations

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  5. Pingback: What are your coping mechanisms for social media fatigue?

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