The Hazards of Knowing Not Enough

Every year, I go through this work frenzy as the holidays arrive, and every year, I unreasonably think that things will be magically calm and collected come 1 January. It’s a pipe dream, and it’s been a consistent one of mine for the last 8 years. It never, ever works out that way. If insanity is doing the same things over again and expecting a different result, then I’m clearly insane. This year the frenzy is exacerbated by bold new initiatives and moves within the company, a couple of reorganizational moves, a shift in focus, and the realization that I will never, every clear out my email queue. It was not helped by 3 days of snow, one of which without internet. This is all by way of explanation to the extremely weird mood I was in today, and what it resulted in, which has left me most thoughtful, if not slightly irritated at the time I wasted.

As the snow is melting I’m back in the office, with a quick trip to run errands, and one of those was the post office. At said post office there were two warmly-dressed folks, mid-30’s, with posters of our President, with a Hitler moustache. Now, I’ve seen these before, when I went down to Olympia for Focus Day last year (and will be there again this year!), and at a couple of grocery stores. I get that they are exercising their Free Speech* rights and that’s cool — democracy is the celebration of all of the freedoms, not just the ones you like.

As I went in to the Post Office I realized I had left my phone in the car, so I went back to the car to retrieve it. Upon opening the door the man said, “We’re over here!” to me, and I looked up and said, “Yes, I know”, and proceeded to rummage through my car for my phone (it wasn’t there, I had left it at home, which is a frustrating thing). “They’re trying to kill us,” he said, and I made a very big mistake here. I asked, “Who?”

Man: “Obama and the Republicans. They got together with the banks and are trying to kill us!”

Me: “So, a Democrat president and a Republican congress got together with the banks to… kill us?”

Man: “Yeah!”

Me: “The government can’t even deliver the mail properly.”

Man: “That doesn’t matter. They’re trying to kill us!”

Me: “…”

Man: “The Russians are putting up a colony on the moon. They’ve announced it.”

Me: “Okay, how is *that* a bad thing?”

Man: “It isn’t!”

Me: “I don’t understand where you’re going with this? Kennedy said in ’62 we’d get to the Moon and did, now the Russians are going to build a colony — wouldn’t that drive innovation? Isn’t that a good thing?”

Man: “It’s not about that!”

Me: “Did you vote?”

Man: “It’s not about that!”

Me: “Yes it is. There are two ways to change things in this country. You vote, or you vote with your feet.”

Man: “Politics is not about personalities.”

Me: (Internally: WTF?)

Me: “You just said politics is not about personalities…”

Man: “Yeah!”

Me: “You’ve pasted a Hitler moustache on the President… aren’t you evoking a personality for that?”

Man: “No, it’s because he’s trying to kill us!”

Me: “I think you need to work on your message.”

Man: (sarcastically) “Oh you win!”

From here I walked into the post office thinking that aside from opening my mouth (mistake one) was that I thought this person wanted to actually engage in any sort of discussion or debate. He’s mad, he’s pissed, and he’s probably got just enough information to be dangerous but not effective (like most of the rest of us).  Spending any amount of time discussing it with him was leaving me lost, and clearly leaving him frustrated.  A waste of time for both of us, and that’s a shame.

I got my stamps, exited, and his female companion (compatriot? Colleague?) smiled at me. She asked if I wanted a flyer and I said No, indicating I think she probably already knew that. She said she didn’t.

I’m not sure if there’s training around this sort of communication technique but it can’t be one of persuasion — only confusion. Which is quite ironic, as that appears to be part of their chief complaint.

*ME: big fan of Free Speech, and *all* that it entails. But there’s a certain amount of explanation that goes with Free Speech — it means people can say all kinds of things that you don’t like. Now, if they say stuff about YOU and it isn’t true then it’s slander and you can prosecute (Obscenity and Libel make the cut, too). But Free Speech means they can scream at the top of their lungs about something you don’t like or agree with, and you have to deal, and vice-versa. If someone wants to paste the facial hair of a bloody mass murderer on a photo of the President — and this is not the first President to get that treatment — then I can’t do anything to stop them. It’s their right. There is no compulsion on my part, however, to agree with them, and I should’ve simply ignored them. That’ll learn me.