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Cutting Some Slack While Maintaining Accountability

May 16, 2011

Every now and then, I write a post over at Science 2.0 that the vaccine-injury folks jump on, whereas I usually don’t get any of those folks commenting here (discounting the Rose who came by last week). For some reason, a two month old post over there is getting comments again.

Part of one of those comments had me chuckling, even though it was offered in all seriousness. It’s sort of like this reiki healing video a friend shared yesterday. It’s funny until you remember the person saying it believes it.

How a Reiki Healing Session Works

(what I love best is the irony of having a long RA 
drug ad before it when you watch it at its original site)

If you’ve been engaged in the vaccine-injury debate for any amount of time, it becomes very obvious that the more outrageous the comment, the more issues the person is dealing with. It doesn’t remove the accountability component, but it should temper the emotional component one has for the people uttering the batshit crazy (and I’m sorry, but a lot of it is: comparing the vaccine program to the Nazi extermination of Jews and others they considered undesirable is crazy). Some of it’s just misinformed. Some of it’s understable with as crappy as their critical thinking and science information backgrounds are. None of these things excuses the person for his or her rhetoric. We can and should remember the humanity behind it, but one of the key things our society in general lacks is the idea of accountability for one’s own words and actions. Everyone, damned near, seems to want a free pass to say and treat people how ever they feel like it. Mental health issues, while they should be taken into account, shouldn’t be used to give the person license to shit all over everybody, and I say this as someone with abundant experience with family members’ mental health issues.

So important is this idea of coupling compassion with accountability to me and to my writing partner, Kathleen, that a good while back, Louise introduced Luther to readers at EDHF. Since that time, this piece has been taught in my comp 2 class in conjunction with the end the R word day campaign.

We should always consider the emotional state of the person uttering or writing the words, but it does not exclude them from the responsibility for his or her words. It may mean we question carefully, we offer plenty of opportunities for clarification and we avoid taking umbrage until we are sure that is what the intent of those words were. 

Much of our work with our kids centers on appropriate social discourse: this can be said safely, but not this. We drill it in so that they will not commit social gaffes that set them apart and make their way harder.  And yet, daily we read comments so beyond the pale out there on the internet. No, I’m not a big fan of chalking it up to those people’s issues and giving them a free pass. I might not directly engage the person. Once you’ve decided someone is mentally unbalanced, it’s wiser to walk away. They know what they’re saying, though, don’t think they don’t; they don’t care. They’ve dehumanized the people they spew their vitriol on and they don’t get a free pass for that as far as I’m concerned. Compassion for how broken they are, that I can do, though. That and walking away from direct engagement.

Here’s Louise’s post as it appears on my 1302 blog:

(Unit 3) Critical thinking and such

Well hey now. I’m right pleased to be joining these three ladies on the journey towards explaining critical thinking. I tell you, I was tickled that Miss Kim thought to ask me! Why I’m just a simple old gal from Stink Creek. Short on temper but long on experience. Experience and good old common sense. So that’s what I want to talk to y’all about. Experience, common sense, and considering your sources. All three are important when deconstructing an argument. Now I want y’all to sit back and relax while I tell you a story…

A couple weeks ago, me and my gal Thelma had us what you might call a “situation” here in Stink Creek. Feller by the name a “Luther Jenkins” was causing a bit a trouble for some new folks in town. Luther is a WWII veteran. Saw himself a lot a action in the pacific theatre, suffered himself an injury. Came home with a metal plate in his head an a whole lot a crazy ideations. Luther is a quiet fella, mild mannered, not quick to temper…keeps to himself. I think a part of that has to do with the metal plate and all. Always settin off metal detectors and messin with sattelite television transmissions from time to time. Another part is, well, Luther aint always right in the head if ya ken me.

A new family moved into town, and they happened to be of Japanese descent. Nice folks, Artie and Marie Nakanowa. Got them a couple a little girls. Artie works as an accountant over at the Stink Creek Reindeer meatball cannery and Marie is a stay at home mom. Civic minded folk. Joinin the Rotary, the Elks, even applied for membership to the Stink Creek shootin range and mini golf club.

Now when Luther got wind of these good folks movin in, he about done lost any marbles he had. He done started a nasty old letter writin campaign. He wrote to the editor of “The Stink Creek Journal” (big name small paper). He wrote to the mayor; he left hand-made signs around town sayin “We has been invaded!,” “Remember Pearl Harbor,” and “Hide your chickens!” Don’t quite understand what that last one was about…but y’all get the idea of what he was doing. Got folks pretty riled up. Held a town meeting. Folks standing up and saying things like “We ought to run Luther out of town,” “Stink Creek aint for haters,” “That man is crazy, let’s shun him!”  And things like “The war is over! what in the hell is his problem. ” They also talked about the chicken signs, didn’t have much to say on that. Fact is, Stink Creek embraced this new family, and they were spittin mad at Luther for causin all sorts of trouble. So they did the only thing they could think of. They asked me and my gal Thelma to step in.

Armed with lovin bosoms and our pocketbooks, we went on over to Luther’s place to talk to him. His behavior was unacceptable and mighty hurtful to the town. We were ready, with our heavy purses and even heavier hearts, to take him on! When we got to Luther’s, he was hidin in the basement, which he had made into a bunker a sorts. He was settin in the corner, behind a pile a canned goods, rockin and shakin sayin, “They is gonna git me” over and over. Boy howdy ya should have seen him. This man was scared, and weeping, and six cans short of a six-pack. It took a whole lot of talkin and huggin, but me and my gal Thelma convinced him to take a ride over to the hospital with us. Our friend Luther was havin himself a breakdown of sorts. He wasn’t ever right in the head since the war, and recent events just made him go over the edge.

Luther’s been spendin some time over at “Sisters of perpetual agony” psychiatric hospital on old Rt. 86, and I’m tellin ya true, it’all has done him a world of good. What with therapy and medication, Luther is facing his demons, comin to terms with his behavior. He even wrote a beautiful letter to the paper AND the Nakanowa’s apologizin for his words an whatnot. Although he still aint explained why he thought we should hide our chickens. Mayhaps another time..

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes folks say and do ignorant and hateful things. These things aint never acceptable-and these folks need to be responsible for their words and such. Sometimes though, we all need to step aside and think about what might be causin these folks to say and do these things. Some dumbasses ain’t dumbasses at all. Sometimes they got issues and  whatnot. I think that helping them to recognize their behavior, with understandin and kindness is part a what neurodiversity is all about. I ain’t sayin don’t put folks in there place. Don’t give em a little whup ass…Hell No! I’m sayin try to understand where they are comin from afore you do. Cause mental illness aint always recognizable. Me and my gal Thelma learned that for true a few weeks ago. Not all dumbasses are created equal, some of them need a gentle push, and a whole lot of them need a whup in the ass.

There are a whole lot of “Luthers” on the internet. Problem is that some folks are so busy gettin angry at what they say, that they don’t take the time to figure out “why” they is sayin it. A couple odd weeks ago, a friend of ours came across this post on “aspergers syndrome” in the internet.http//

He wrote himself a fiery blog post on it. Got lots of folks commenting on it. Got people mad. I’m not saying that their anger wasn’t justified, it surely was…but it was misplaced. What our friend and all his commenters did was to “react” instead of “respond.” Iffen they had taken the time to look at all the posts on that fella’s blog, they might have formed themselves a different opinion. They might have noticed that this particular gentleman had himself a few “issues.”

The point I’m trying to make is this. In countering an argument with critical thinking, you have to look at all the pieces of the puzzle, all the information, you have to dig. You have to look at the big picture, not just the snap shot. But most importantly, you have to set your emotions aside. Feelings aren’t factual; they are anecdotal. Anecdotes have no place in a logical argument. 

Look at me sounding all kinds of educated an such. Must be there is more to Miss Louise than just her good looks and down home charm. Boy howdy! I’m like a sweet vidalia onion I am! Just when ya think ya know me, I peel off another layer an suprise ya! Well, there ya go.   

The original post at EDHF appears here.

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