We were on the interstate, driving home from Massachusetts (more on this later), when the news of the insurrection broke. I was stunned and horrified, of course. But I was not surprised. The President had been rabble rousing for weeks, so I’d figured something was bound to happen.
Listening to the reports, it didn’t take long for me to grow exasperated with the newscasters and their tiresome “How could this have happened?” refrain — as though this came out of nowhere — but when they started with the somber intonations of “This is not America” and “This is not who we are,” that’s when I exploded.
“This is EXACTLY who we are,” I yelled at my husband, “and denying nearly half of our population — dismissing them out of hand as though they don’t even exist — is stupid. If we don’t see things for how they actually are — not as we wish them to be — then we will never change.“
A couple days later my mom forwarded a link to this video which succinctly encapsulates my thoughts. Watching it was cathartic. I’m not the only one.
I have relatives who were in the crowd that day — they didn’t go into the capitol, they say, but they were at the base of the steps — and I have other relatives who, watching from afar, were exultant.
With my friends, I puzzle over the best approach. My ideas run the gamut: from mockery to serious debate, from lambasting rage to loving rebuke, from complete disengagement to silent watchfulness.
Nothing I come up with feels right.
Awhile back, I heard a report on how best to engage with people who are ensnared in conspiracy theories. The solution is simple, the guy said: hours and hours of conversation in which each theory is painstakingly broken down into bite-sized chunks and overlaid with facts. It’s a tedious exercise in logic, reminiscent of the sort of conversation a parent might have with a teen (speaking from experience here), and there are two key requirements: lots of available time, and a close relationship important enough to warrant the time commitment.
Regarding my personal connections, I have the time but not the closeness — so, so much for that. Not that it really matters, though — the guy on the report said that it’s all but impossible to detangle someone who is committed to conspiracies.
So I try to take the long view. What can I do now that, five years from now, I will feel proud of? What about fifty years from now? I think of the future history books and try to imagine myself in them. I mean, not me as in Jennifer’s Going To Be In A History Book!, but my position in the pages. Where will I fall?
Better yet, where do I want to place myself?
Thinking this way doesn’t really change anything — I’m still mystified and repulsed by these staggeringly bizarre theories — but it helps me stay open and hold my anger (of the retaliatory, unhelpful sort) in check.
These conspiracy theories (and all the other accompanying dangerous and damaging ideologies) aren’t going away any time soon, so if you have any brilliant insights for how to cope and/or confront them, tell me. I need help figuring this out.