oh boy. it’s not often that i get to relive a version of high school, but that’s what happened at a get-together last weekend. you remember stereotypical high school: snarky, snotty people, rivalries over nothing, power struggles, constant negative talk designed to eviscerate anyone who strays from the “norm”. in short, groups ganging up on an innocent person just because they are different.
or, maybe not.
maybe the person under fire is someone who is offending every else by lobbing out despicable and unacceptable talk. maybe sometimes social justice is a group disallowing racist, sexist, homophobic talk. where is the line between picking on someone and shutting down ignorance and hurtfulness?
we found it.
the line is that in a social setting we generally agree to step lightly on controversial and political topics. the line is that preserving the jovial atmosphere of the group trumps your personal junk. most importantly, when lightly reminded that you are the one out of line, step back and maybe apologize, but mostly act in a civilized manner and more carefully consider what you’re saying. or, shut up entirely.
so the majority of the group is just a bunch of “conservatives” who didn’t want to hear a “liberal” tell the “truth”, right? or the majority of the group was a bunch of “liberals” who couldn’t stomach hearing the “truth” from an “ultra conservative”? neither one.
the truth is that it was a group who recognized baseless offensive talk when they heard it.
so i found myself close to the offending person and the other side of a glass of wine on an empty stomach. i was patient for some time and even tried to ignore this person, but they just continued to go too far. a number of people around me were challenging the offender in a jovial manner, but the message wasn’t getting through. so, i spoke up. and even as i was speaking, as the words were leaving my mouth, i was simultaneously thinking that i the mean girl here, victimizing someone else.
but in the days afterward, the offending person continued to show their true colors, continued with their negative narrative. it got me to thinking again about how life is much more complex than stereotypes and sound bites.
exactly what the ill-behaved person needs to learn.