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When I first watched AOC’s recent response to Yoho, I cried. I don’t say this just to sound unmanly, though that might be highly appropriate here. There wasn’t a lot of tears, more just an uncontrollable tearing up. It wasn’t profuse or spasmodic or sobbing, but a more soughing mixture of sadness, indignation, joy, and so many other things. In the following days, I watched her speech several more times. Last night, an article from The Cut, posted by Jodi Blazek Gehr, made me want to watch it again. When I did, I cried again. It’s that . . . . .

A little over a year ago I went into the steam room at the sports club, which some of you will remember from a previous post. It’s turning out to have been a pivotal place. As usual, AI was already there. That’s AI, as in artificial intelligence; not his actual name, but very close; the substitution of the capital “I” seems highly appropriate here. If he should see this (which is unlikely, though I hope he does), he’ll know who I’m talking about. This time, two other men were farther to the back. A lot of the members, including some women, seem very fond of AI. I can’t fathom why, unless it’s because he looks like Santa Claus, even when in bathing trunks. To me, he’s just another Yoho. I have a hard time thinking of anyone I dislike more, at least among first hand acquaintances. It took a while to realize this, but my first inkling was that he never stopped talking. Ever. Still, I generally try to be diplomatic and superficial with him, when I don’t ignore him all together. But . . . .

On this occasion, he was entertaining the other two with the same kind of language used by Yoho, only worse, and in an even less restrained manner, along the lines not uncommon in “locker talk.” The other two men were getting a kick out of it. The three of them were having a jolly old time and in total agreement about something. Had I been keeping up on the news then, I would have known immediately what this was. I wasn’t, so I asked AI what was so funny. His first response, with a sardonic roll of his eyes, was, “And I suppose YOU never talk like this?” I don’t, but I didn’t bother to mention his, since I knew he already had me pegged as a bleeding-heart, tree-hugging liberal. But, because he can’t stop talking, he did go on to explain a little about Trump’s remarks regarding AOC and the Squad. Of course, he tucked his answer into sexist vulgarities thicker that the steam in there. It would have been no different had there been women present. I was informed enough to ask him what country he thought they should go back to. His response was muffled, but still managed to be derogatory, so I replied, “Sorry AI, much as I’d love to hear what you have to say, time for the whirlpool now. Bye.”

The unforgivable ubiquity of moments like this has already been captured by AOC in a lot less words, more pointedly, and with a degree of eloquence and insight that makes me hesitate to even touch on it again. Had she been in the steam room at the time, which wouldn’t have stopped AI from spouting off, I’m sure she would have dealt with him in a much less perfunctory manner. I think she must come from a more heroic, yet sadly otherworldly planet, somewhere in the milky way of feminism. I find myself standing far below, looking up at it in awe, unequal to the task. (Note: on rereading this, I don't like those last two sentences. I can explain what's wrong, but haven't figured out how to fix it yet. The biggest problem is that it's sexist, even though I thought it sounded kind of pretty, even after reading over it several times. I can clean it up and make it more politically correct, but that won't fix the underlying attitude it came from. It's ironic that this started out being a piece about political correctness, but took off in a different direction. Maybe it's best to just leave it as is with this note in red attached. That way, it will serve as more evidence of how deeply embedded the attitudes are that women are up against. As argued so well by AOC, my good intentions are no excuse. I'm sure I will find more evidence if I continue to take a closer look at what's here. Even my use of the phrase "take a closer look" says a lot. I may end up having to annotate my own work, including annotations of the annotations.)

Around the same time as AOC’s speech, I had found myself in a private online group when it was invaded by an anti-masker in a highly inappropriate manner. The expectations of the group were clearly posted, yet he deliberately ignored them, much as he probably also tries to ignore the city wide mask mandate warnings posted at business entrances. I happened to get in on his abusive comments early. My response was not pretty, well thought out, or very effective. I was guilty of piling on comments that were sarcastic and mean-spirited and that I thought were clever. They weren’t. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been guilty of this, even though I know better. Realizing this, I backed off and tried a more diplomatic approach. By then it was probably too late, though the “intruder” did also back off and respond in a more coherent and somewhat less defensive manner. Though I have a vague notion of how such encounters might be more reasonably approached, I still have a lot to learn, as I suspect might be the case with almost everyone.

If we want to avoid plunging into another civil war, as I fear we may, it’s time to learn to be more civil. Quickly. There are some good resources to assist with this, which have appeared in a timely fashion. One them is, which I learned about from a post on our Mayor’s Facebook page. Its focus is mainly on racism. Along with many other resources, it includes an opportunity for mediated conversations. I should do this with AI, but, in spite of his penchant for talking, that seems unlikely to happen. I guess it won’t hurt to ask, if it ever becomes safe to use the sports club again.

Also around the same time, I learned of another excellent resource when I stumbled on a post by Dutch Fichthorn. I alluded above to my fear of another civil war breaking out. Left-wing Conspiracy Theory? Maybe. As insightfully pointed out in "How to talk to conspiracy theorists—and still be kind," lapses of logical, informed thinking into this kind of easy-answer defense mechanism are a lot more than just grasping at straws, and they are not limited to right wing politics, though they seem a lot more prevalent there. They are also extremely tricky to deal with. The article gives expert advice about this; exactly the kind of weapons needed to fight the civil war I fear, or at least to defuse people like myself who may be more than just over exaggerating in a highly fashionable manner.

No sooner had I finished reading this than I had an opportunity to put it into practice. I’m back on AOC now. There was another beautiful post about her from Jodi Blazek Gehr, where she was joined in some great comments from one of her former students, Vedrana Dziko, and another whose comments were, to put it nicely, much less agreeable, on many scores. One of those comments was a lengthy, impassioned, impressively comprehensive dump on what she perceives as the Democratic platform. She included most of the conspiracy theories you’re probably already familiar with. Resisting a nearly overwhelming urge to respond in kind, or at least with brute force logic and facts, I held off and decided to try a response along the lines suggested in the article posted by Dutch Fichthorn. It wasn’t easy, and took a lot of thought and time. It turned out better than I had hoped for, but it was still too long and never got around to addressing any of the punches aimed specifically at AOC, though those came mostly in separate comments anyway.

Did this different approach work? I don’t know if the person it was addressed to has even seen it. If so, she’s chosen not to respond. Or, maybe, she’s taking her time to prepare an equally careful, strategic response. I hope she’s seen suggestions for working along the lines recommended here. They aren’t intended only for one “side” or the other. If they became the primary weapons employed by both left and right, we’d be a lot closer to winning the civil war before it starts. If she never responds at all, that’s OK, too. It was good, hard, much needed practice for me. And maybe I will have been a role model, who at least tried a different approach, for anyone else who might happen to see my missive still hanging out there, empty handed.

Speaking of role models, I have yet to explain the reason why one person was tagged in my thanks for this. It’s not for any specific thing that person has posted along these lines, though I’m sure I would find many if I took the time to dig a little deeper. Even short of this, simply put, this person is the most calm, collected, reasonable, just, consistent, informed and capable practitioner of civility of anyone I have the privilege to know (though a few others come close) — a role model par excellence. This has been true for as far back as I can remember, and I’ve known this person for a long time and in many capacities, going all the way back to the highly competitive, sometimes even cutthroat, adversarial arena of Debate. With a model like that in mind: onward, soldiers (Christian or otherwise)! “Blend with ours your voices.”

Next up: "Go Trump Yourself! (A Fantastical, Post-Modern Tribute To Donald Trump)" It may be a while, though. I wrote it way back in April, and even though I still kind of like it, it's badly in need of updating revisions. I kind of forgot about it while working on other things, but it would fit in pretty well with the above.