Dangerous ground

Okay, Readers… it’s time we take a few steps onto some dangerous ground together.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’ve been on a hiatus this past month. We’ve been on a pretty intense travel schedule between my work and my husband’s rescue efforts (a story for another blog), and honestly I wasn’t sure exactly where to start upon my return to blogging in October. A lot has happened in my life, and there is a lot to tell.

However…

A lot has also happened in our country and I can’t ignore it. I can’t even really avoid it. It’s all over everywhere, and because I write about perspective, I figured I had better share what I see happening in as much of an unbiased, and non-political way as I possibly can. Yes, I know that to stay likable we’re usually supposed to avoid talking about things like religion and politics, but since I’ve never avoided talking about my faith, I figure let’s just jump in the deep end and give politics a go too!

Yes, I’m referring to what’s happening in the he said/she said circus between Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford.

Sidebar: If you don’t know what’s happening in the he said/she said circus between Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, a quick google or turning on ANY radio or tv will remedy your ignorance on this issue.

Notice: This is going to be tricky, and you might be just as nervous reading this as I am right now. Don’t you just hate it when someone you love dearly posts something completely contradicting your core beliefs on Facebook? I swear, Facebook makes me hate my friends sometimes! But I just felt really compelled to put this perspective out there today. I read a verse this morning in the good book that made me finally put pen to paper- so to speak- and it was this: But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15

I took this to mean two things: 1) We are literally eating each other alive. The division in our political world is tragic and frightening. But also 2) We are getting consumed with one another. Like we’re literally too consumed with being on the ‘right’ side that we can’t even see the forrest for the trees. I see it all over the place and it’s breaking my heart for us.

Stick with me for a moment and I promise I will try very hard NOT to piss you off. BUT, you have to agree right now, if you’re going to read on, that we are NOT TALKING ABOUT who is guilty or not guilty, who believes who is telling the truth or not, and we’re certainly not IN ANY WAY discrediting the seriousness of sexual assault or any other shenanigans like that because NONE OF THAT is the point of this blog.

I had the great pleasure of having breakfast with John O’Leary on Friday (another story for another blog post also) and he’s the author of the AMAZING book called On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life. I respect him deeply and feel very blessed to have shared a few hours with him.

The breakfast appointment was actually my friend Stacia’s appointment- one that she won in a sweepstakes, if you can believe that- and I was lucky enough to have been invited to tag along. Stacia and I were really unsure of what on earth we should talk about with John O’Leary- a complete celebrity to us- but John was as cool as a cucumber and got us started off on the right foot. Coffee in hand, as soon as John sat down with the two of us, he asked if we were up to speed on the goings on in D.C. Friday was the day after the hearings between Kavanaugh and Ford and so yes, we were in the know.

I wasn’t exactly sure where he was going with such a heated subject, but I was impressed by his boldness. But after we both nodded and mumbled agreement, he went straight to the point and man did he land on it well.

“You know, someone is lying, and no one is listening.”

I couldn’t agree more. He gave nothing away as to who he suspected was lying, but he was dead on. One of them is not telling the truth. That we know.

But John was also right in his conviction that not one of us- the spectators of this whole, big show- is really listening and trying to figure out who is lying… or why. A lot of us had already decided what we thought as SOON as we read the initial headlines, am I wrong? We do it all the time! Personal example: When my ex boyfriends would tell me about their crazy ex girlfriends… not one part of me EVER doubted the craziness of the ex girlfriend, until I became her.

Y’all, I’m not excluding myself here, that’s what I’m getting at. I’m guilty of this snap judgement too. I desire to weigh in, feel compassion for the victim, and be on the ‘right’ side. But I remember learning in middle school about logos, pathos and ethos- three modes of persuasion. Does anyone else remember this? Let’s run on over to wikipedia for a quick refresher:

Ethos is an appeal to the authority or credibility of the presenter. It is how well the presenter convinces the audience that the presenter is qualified to speak on the subject. This can be done by being a notable figure in the field in question, such as a college professor or an executive of a company whose business is related to the presenter’s topic, or demonstrating mastery of the terminology of the field.

Logos is logical appeal or the simulation of it, and the term logic is derived from it. It is normally used to describe facts and figures that support the speaker’s claims or thesis. Having a logos appeal also enhances ethos because information makes the speaker look knowledgeable and prepared to his or her audience.

Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions. The terms sympathy, pathetic, and empathy are derived from it. It can be in the form of metaphor, simile, a passionate delivery, or even a simple claim that a matter is unjust. Pathos can be particularly powerful if used well, but most speeches do not solely rely on pathos. Pathos is most effective when the author or speaker demonstrates agreement with an underlying value of the reader or listener. In addition, the speaker may use pathos and fear to sway the audience. Pathos may also include appeals to audience imagination and hopes; done when the speaker paints a scenario of positive future results of following the course of action proposed. In some cases, downplaying the ethos can be done while emphasizing pathos.

Each of these methods can be incredibly persuasive, but please note, they are methods of persuasion!! Used for the soul purpose of persuading the listener, viewer, reader to FEEL something. Hear me… just because we FEEL like we know the story, or because a speaker is incredibly compelling- maybe even bringing us to tears- does not make them any more truthful necessarily. It just makes us FEEL like they’re telling the truth. You guys, this is classic stuff- like literally- Aristotle.

Journalism over the past decade has moved largely away from logos and ethos, and relied heavily on pathos. As a matter of fact, when we make snap judgements, or when we feel our heart rate start to climb, or when we get that rush of adrenaline when we hear a news story or read a headline… y’all, that’s because our pathos cord has been struck. We’re getting EMOTIONAL about it. And if you’ve read a single book about making judgments or decisions based on your emotions, you know that is DANGEROUS GROUND.

So let’s back up a few steps here for just a second so I can inform you, in case you don’t know, where I’m uniquely positioned in my perspective here.

  1. I am a woman (Spoiler alert).
  2. I voted in the last election.
  3. I did not vote for Trump.
  4. I don’t care one single bit if Kavanaugh is elected to the Supreme Court. I DO NOT CARE, no loyalty to him whatsoever.
  5. I am a victim of sexual assault.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I have to tread a little farther into this…

TIME TO CLARIFY AGAIN: I’m not trying to make ANY kind of argument as to who is telling the truth. Both parties are enlisting their pathos skills here. But it’s actually completely irrelevant to the whole point of this blog. I hope you realize that, because I fear I’m going to get comments either making assumptions about who I, personally, believe is telling the truth (which is neither of them, if you want my honest answer), or even discussing the supposed guilt… again… this is NOT THE POINT AT ALL! It’s not that it doesn’t matter IN LIFE, it’s just irrelevant to THIS BLOG. I don’t care who is lying. It doesn’t matter. It’s not the point. Don’t miss what I’m saying here. Are we super clear? Super duper clear? One more time… Reading on means we agree that the guilt, or who we believe, is NOT the point of this blog…

Okay, glad we got that out of the way.

Ford seems to be telling the truth. She is very convinced that something happened to her at some point, you can see how upset she is about it. I know from experience how difficult it is to walk through what she is describing. Was Kavenaugh the culprit? It’s possible. Kavanaugh seems to be telling the truth also. He doesn’t have a single mark on his record that would make anyone believe this is within his character. This isn’t my opinion, this is a matter of public record. Did he do this terrible thing? It’s possible.

The point is… I don’t know. And neither do you. Not for sure, not one way or another, right? I mean, it’s impossible to know for sure from where we sit. This is a classic he said/she said conversation.

Here is the problem (AND THE POINT OF THIS BLOG)… as soon as we let people start casting votes in the court of public opinion, this country, this democracy, the constitution, our freedoms, our rights, our protections, our judicial system… it’s ALL threatened. I’m serious, y’all. Go with me for a second…

Remember way back when OJ Simpson was on trial? They had a HELL of a time (yes, I typed HELL in all caps!) finding a suitable jury that was going to be unbiased, and uninfluenced by public opinion. And then they had to keep that jury quite literally locked up in a hotel the entire duration of the trial- and it was not a short one- because they couldn’t take the chance that one of them could be influenced by the news, papers, false information, he said/she said, their neighbors, strangers… the freaking world. You know what they say about opinions… their like assholes, everyone has one.

Readers, were not talking about Kavanaugh being on trial here. He doesn’t even get that much! At least not yet. As far as I know, no formal charges have been brought upon this man. And let me tell you, if he did this, he should be tried for it. And if he’s guilty, then he should absolutely be removed from his position and served up his consequences. I’ll be the first one to shake my head in disgust IF he did it!

But let’s insist that Ford bring this investigation to the justice system, so that justice can be done. It’s okay if you have an opinion of whether or not you think he did it- he very well might have- but let’s please NOT allow this to be the beginning of a precedent that as long as you can smear someone, you can ruin them, and you don’t ever have to bring any actual evidence, take a stand, or even officially accuse.

We have GOT to stand on innocence until proven guilty. We’ve got to! I don’t know Ford or Kavanaugh from ADAM, but I do know me! And I would be absolutely mortified if someone brought false charges against me and people strung me up before any proof was given. Do we remember the witch trials? Do we remember why we put this system in place to begin with? Is the system perfect? God no. The justice system is flawed. But it’s all we’ve got. It’s the only way we can hear a case, question the people involved, get to the bottom of what actually happened, look at evidence, and be JUSTLY judged by a jury of our peers.

You guys, have you ever heard of the German Lutheran Pastor’s quote from Nazi Germany? Martin Niemöller is said to have initially supported Hitler’s rise to power but became disillusioned when what first won him over with pathos, no longer appealed to his logical mind.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

We can’t let the system break down, no matter who we believe is telling the truth. If we allow people to win with something as simple as a smear campaign, we’ve all lost. And like I said, if you believe that Kavanaugh did this- I’m not asking you to defend him. I’m asking you to defend your future self. Because what if… just ‘what if’ with me for a second… what if he didn’t do it? (I’M NOT SAYING HE DIDN’T- REMEMBER THAT IS NOT THE POINT) What if he didn’t do it, and his life is absolutely ruined because someone said, convincingly enough, that he did it? Or worse, what if someday someone comes out with something against you? What if you didn’t do it, but no one believed you because the accusation was compelling and well timed?

Again, it does not matter who you ‘believe,’ someone is lying. And without a court case, we’re no closer to knowing who. Don’t set the wrong precedent just because you’ve been persuaded to believe one person or the other.

In closing, I want to share with you an excerpt from a book by Brene Brown- another author I adore and admire- Braving the Wilderness. I read this just yesterday and felt my first nudge towards this blog. It is so profound to me, and if you listen, you might just hear the answer to our whole problem…

She begins by quoting the author of the book The Big Sort:

I want to start by reading a quote for you from Bill Bishop. Bill writes “As people seek out the social settings they prefer, as they choose the groups that make them feel most comfortable, the nation grows more politically segregated and the benefit that ought to come with having a variety of opinions is lost to the righteousness that is the special entitlement of homogeneous groups. We all live with the results; Balkanized communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible, a growing intolerance for political differences that has made national consensus impossible, and politics that are so polarized that congress is stimead and elections are no longer just contests over policies, but bitter choices between ways of life.”

This quote is from Bill Bishop’s book The Big Sort. He wrote it in 2009. But given the state of our country after the 2016 elections and what we see happening across the globe, he’ll likely need to call his sequel, The Biggest Sort Ever. Bishop’s book tells a story of how we’ve geographically, politically, and even spiritually sorted ourselves into like minded groups in which we silence dissent, grow even more extreme in our thinking and consume only the facts that support our beliefs, making it even easier to ignore evidence that our positions are wrong. Bishop writes, “As a result we now live in a giant feedback loop, hearing our own thoughts about what’s right and wrong bounced back to us by the television shows we watch, the newspapers and books we read, the blogs we visit online, the sermons we hear, and the neighborhoods we live in. This sorting leads to us making assumptions about the people around us too, which in turns fuels disconnection.”

We’ve got to un-sort, y’all! Like desperately. We’ve got to stop and just LISTEN to each other for a hot second. John O’Leary, you’re dead on, and I appreciate your insight. As leaders- and we’re all leaders, Readers- leaders of marriages, homes, families, kids, peers, church groups, social media followers, the list goes on- we MUST be willing to stop, slow down, and challenge what is persuading us. Again, it’s not so much a point of which side we sit on, there will always be agreement to disagree, but it’s more about listening to one another and not making assumptions about the people around us, or attacking the opposing side.

It’s dangerous ground, if we decide to do this- you know… listen to each other- because we might be right, yes, but we also may find that we’re wrong. And this will be less fun than when we’re right. Egos will be bruised. Pride will crumble. But victory will be OURS… all of ours. Of this, I’m sure.

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