Watch this. No, really; even if you’re saving up for the whole season before you watch the show, watch this scene. I promise it won’t spoil anything for you:
This scene has been haunting me for about a week now, and I think that’s because it fits in perfectly with some of the really hard thinking I’ve been doing for a very long time.
When I first saw this – someone posted it on facebook, then I watched it again a few days later when I saw the episode that goes with it – I felt that Will was absolutely correct in how he conducted that interview. More than anything else, I want for people to stop and think about what their words and actions and beliefs REALLY MEAN, and the fact that Will didn’t let the guy off with the pat, easy answers was satisfying to me.
Then something clicked.
Those of you who’ve been with me for a while know that I’ve been trying, desperately, to get underneath why it is that communication seems to have dissolved into a metaphorical – if not literal – shouting match. Have we really forgotten how to talk to each other? Are we really so polarized, so distinct and separate, that the ways in which we used to reach compromise and consensus are forever lost to us? What happened to us, both individually and collectively, that rendered us effectively incapable of meeting one another on equal, respectful ground? Why do we tend to view one another more as potential enemies than as compatriots and peers?
This went along with my agonized wrestling with the idea that someone could gleefully, enthusiastically, and wholeheartedly behave in ways that were patently counter to their own best interests. I’ve been watching people – who I think should know better – forward ideas and policies that will ultimately limit their rights and freedoms and safety (to say nothing of choking off those things for others) and having a terrible time wrapping my thinking around what would cause them to do that. I think that I loved this scene because Will asks that very question; how can you advocate for a man who genuinely thinks you’re something less than he is?
In order to further this thinking, I’ve been talking to a lot of smart people (I’m looking at you, Rick), reading, and thinking critically about things like the clip I just showed you. What I’m coming to – that click I mentioned – is the realization that everyone does a sort of cataloging of their priorities (which is not a new idea for me) and that, further, everyone bases their decisions upon a complex equation of identity, belief, and expectation.
The reason Will was so upset with Sutton Wall is because he expected Wall to give certain ideals priority over others, and Will was frustrated because he couldn’t understand why that wasn’t happening. Wall didn’t want to talk about the former Senator’s stance on issues of homosexuality because that wasn’t the reason Wall was supporting Santorum; he was in it for the former Senator’s stance on abortion. For reasons that were clearly of vital importance to Wall, he prioritized the abortion issue above issues of sexual preference and race sufficiently that he was able to live with his boss’s very publicly stated convictions against those things, even to the point where he’s willing to admit, at the end of the interview, that Santorum really doesn’t think he’s fit to be a teacher (ostensibly because of his sexuality).
I am absolutely guilty of this kind of values projection. Because of my own limited scope and my inability to truly see things as others see them (we can work on coming close – compassion and empathy can be practiced – but none of us can yet fully escape our own heads), I will never be able to really understand what makes some people choose something that, to my (again, limited) vision seems entirely self-harming.
I suspect that a big part of my problem here is an utter failure to fully comprehend the value that many people put on their faith. I recognize that as a shortcoming in myself – I really do have a terrible time with organized religion and the concept of believing something simply because someone tells you to believe it – but I think that this concept is at the heart of a lot of the trouble I have with the disconnect between what I see as people’s temporal reality and what I perceive as the really terrible choices they make. For example, what makes the dirt poor vote for Republicans who will say, out loud and in public, that they want to limit or outright eliminate the programs upon which those poor people depend? Perhaps it’s because of the Republican’s stated stance on marriage or abortion or any of a number of other issues that these people see as being of a higher (perhaps of a higher spiritual) significance. It’s true that a number of these people would rather be poor and assured of what they see as their spiritual rightness than vote to make things better for themselves now and live with the knowledge that they enabled a social program they’ve been taught is wrong.
I have a lot more thinking to do about this, but I think I’ve made a good start. I’m going to keep reading and talking and thinking, though, and I welcome anyone who wants to share in this journey.