I recently discovered a series of YouTube videos in which a young lady provides commentary on various movies and movie-related topics. I’ve found many of her videos to be insightful, entertaining, and reasonably rant-free for a topic that usually brings out the ranting maniac in all of us (yes, I’m including myself in that). And then came a video in which I thought she was going to discuss one of my favorite books.
Unfortunately that’s not what we got. She delivered a twenty-minute hand-wringing over whether or not her discovery that the author’s contrary views on socio-political issues invalidated her enjoyment of his books. She evidently shares a similar quandary over a particular fast food chain whose owners also have contrary views on things, but their food is oh-so-good! (No idea, never eaten there.)
She never quite came to any real conclusion other than admitting that she’s really disappointed in this particular writer, and she wouldn’t be at all surprised if the movie adaptation of the book tanks at the box office. That in itself was more fair-minded than I would usually expect from many of a similar point of view. She certainly seemed willing to kick to the curb some other bizarre accusations against this same author, and I can’t say the video ever devolved into a rant.
Meanwhile, just tonight, I saw a post by Mike Rowe responding to a woman who, having found out that he narrates a particular science documentary series she enjoys, is pressing for the produces to fire him because of her perception of Mike Rowe’s socio-political views.
Nor is this particular problem limited to any one side of the spectrum. I know others who have vowed to stop watching any movies made by a particular studio because of the socio-political policies they espouse.
Are these people right? Are they wrong? Are they insufficiently nuanced in their evaluation of the situations? Perhaps. Am I just a conflict-averse wuss who finds it easier to just keep my mouth shut than take a public stand in any particular direction? Probably. Do I feel that attempts to punish people of differing viewpoints by denying them patronage or outright seeking for them to lose their jobs is wrong? I dunno. But I’m starting to think it’s wrong for me.
You see, I have a niece who works for an animation studio. To my knowledge the owners have not made any controversial public announcements of policy that might draw the ire of any particular group, but if they were to do so I’d really rather my niece didn’t lose her job just because some group wanted to punish the owners for a stance they disagreed with. I’d hate to see an author I like be dismissed out of hand simply because of a single controversial stand (okay, I’m sure he’s made more than one). I’d hate to see my friends or family (or myself, for that matter) denied a livelihood simply because they have unpopular beliefs.
And I’d hate to think that movie commentator’s dislike of a writer I like would move me to dismiss everything else she’s said or stop enjoying her videos. I mean, it’s not like I felt a need to stop watching her videos after she dissed one of my favorite characters in a movie I enjoyed. I could even see her point about a somewhat controversial suggestion she made concerning two characters. It seems to me it would be rather hypocritical of me to be intolerant of her intolerance of someone else’s intolerance, even though she seems to believe intolerance of intolerance is just fine.
In any case, I have not stopped watching her videos. I am, perhaps, more sensitive to her invocation of sensitive topics now, but I still enjoy her commentary. And I’d like to think that, should we ever meet, we’d be able to find plenty to come together over.
But the whole situation leaves me sad. How did we get here? Why is it so horrifying to encounter people of a different perspective that we feel we have to attack? To get them fired? To relegate their works to the rubbish bin, no matter how much we might have enjoyed them before? Why is it our job to teach anyone a lesson? And are we really that concerned over whether they learn it? And do we really think that’s the way to teach it? Are we really interested in helping them change, or are we just lazily tossing them under the bus?
Can we really be that certain our aim is so perfect that we can punish/harm/damage the target of our anger without taking any innocents down with them? I’m pretty certain the political views of the Chik-fil-A owners are not shared by all of the people who work for them. Is it fair to make them suffer? Is our boycott really going to hurt the owners as much as it would the employees who had no say whatsoever in how the owners behave?
And is it really fair to hold someone responsible for their every association? If someone made a movie with someone currently under fire for bad behavior is it really fair to assume the former is fully supportive of the latter’s behavior? Is it fair to try and bankrupt them? Does confronting a suspected cad in a restaurant and punching him out make you a hero or just another cad? Do we somehow believe that doing so is going to make that person change for the better? At what point does fighting bad behavior with bad behavior just make us all badly behaved? Does bad behavior make bad behavior alright? And if so, why doesn’t that then make it okay for them to behave badly back to us?
Undoubtedly I’m going to trigger someone, but I’m going to invoke the infamous “What Would Jesus Do?” Thing is, I’m pretty sure this one can be answered with actual evidence, not just supposition. There were plenty of examples of people who both disagreed with Christ and who behaved in ways Christ did not approve. He never refused to be seen with those people–on the contrary, he often went to those who most shunned what he advocated. He never told anyone that if they mixed with the wrong people he’d shun them. He never tried to get anyone fired from their jobs–even the soldiers who crucified him. He didn’t work to get the Sadducees or Pharisees fired. He didn’t attempt to shame anyone who worked for them. Even when he drove the money-changers out of the temple he didn’t say they couldn’t conduct their business elsewhere.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I’m pretty sure this social vigilante-ism isn’t one. Smashing someone’s head repeatedly into a wall may gain temporary compliance, but they won’t have changed their opinion. They’ll just have learned to keep quiet while they figure out how to turn the tables, giving you as little warning as possible.
This, folks, is how we got Trump. Considering the immense and immediate backlash awaiting anyone who dares say something unpopular, is it any surprise that a great many voters kept quiet about their intentions until they got the chance to vote for someone who, regardless of his faults and positions, refused to be swayed by the backlash against him? Is it any surprise no one knew it was even possible for him to win until the actual votes were counted?
You don’t force unpopular ideas out of existence. You force them underground. You force those who espouse those ideas to grow more resistant. Out of sight and out of mind is not synonymous with “safe.” Quite the contrary.
Unfortunately for our lazy, instant-gratification culture, changing hearts and minds means taking the time to get to know and understand the heart and mind to be changed. It means loving them in spite of their contrary notions until they gain enough respect for you that they begin to listen to you, to come to understand your heart and mind. Even then you still might not change their mind.
But you might actually find a middle ground you can both occupy safely and satisfactorily. And if you don’t believe that’s possible, then perhaps you’re the one whose heart and mind needs to change.