Shock & Awe
I am bruised… by self-inflicted wounds. I just got out of a two-day Facebook war with a friend of my, as he put it, adolescence. (That shudda been my first clue as to just how far we had grown apart… adolescence? Who says that about themselves?)
But I digress.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit… no, I am embarrassed to admit that I took the bait with every posting until I finally pulled out of the tailspin. But I fell to what many smarter people than I have already discovered, i.e. the classic, the liberal fatal flaw of believing that:
if I could say the exact right thing using “facts” (I know, call me Pollyanna), that not only would I win the argument, but also I would change the mind of my opponent for good and for… well, good.
I said I was embarrassed because this is not the first time I’ve made this naïve, tactical error. Chalk it up to the “fool me twice” dunce-cap-kinda-thingy.
But I will also confess that merely knowing this probably won’t stop me from doing it again.
The thing is, I know this strategy will never stand up to what they got on the other side. Facts, as we have seen, are no match for the campaign that seems to be the BFF of those who are on the wrong side of history but the alt-right side of philosophy. This campaign is the Kraken that’s been unleashed onto our society, but it has another name that maybe you’ve heard before.
I call it “shock and awe” or, as it’s probably more commonly known, the scientific name for a statement of such astounding arrogance and audacity, namely “complete and total horsesh*t.”
You’ve experienced shock & awe before. Shock & awe is usually very easy to spot because it is a cover-up for something that is so ridiculously false that it can’t be believed on it surface merit. Sober people usually walk away from anything enmeshed in shock & awe instantly. Few are foolish enough to attempt to use it because it is usually stamped out faster than roaches at a wedding banquet with derision, laughter, and a complete lack of support.
There have been some historic attempts at using shock & awe – and one could understand the lure of its potential to cover-up hopeless compromising positions, and or your garden variety nefarious deeds such as “having a wide spread,” being told “she was 18,” and “that’s just locker room talk.”
But something happened on the way to the democracy of 2017, and somewhere, somehow, President Steve Bannon discovered… the real truth was unimportant to a vocal minority of the American people, but “winning is all there is.” (Thank you, Paul Newman – not Vince Lombardi.)
And President Bannon discovered something else—blatant disregard for the truth made the liberal left (and everyone with a brain) completely stark raving crazy. So crazy that they lost their minds (and their way) in every argument.
What’s funny to this girl is that this shock & awe strategy truly puts the cart before the horsesh*t, in that normal, intelligent people are so “awed” by the sheer audacity of these incredulous arguments, they:
1. Let their guard down, thinking that there’s no way to even justify stupidity and lies, so why bother?
2. Dismiss the information as so irrelevant that it is something that no one could possibly ever agree with. (So again, it’s not taken seriously.)
However, this sets the stage for the shock portion of our show…
Intelligent people are shocked that the above works. Progressives scramble to come down to Bannon’s level, which shelves all of the intelligence and thoughtfulness and more importantly good intentions of their position.
This shock knocks the progressives off their game so much that they find themselves playing defensive “Catch-up” on “solutions looking for a problem,” “False equivalencies,” “fake news,” and “alternative facts.”
This even has the Progressives questioning their own intentions. Maybe we were wrong to think that people are basically good. Maybe we did underestimate the middle of the country’s ability to ignore racism, sexism, and homophobia for the false promises of jobs. Maybe we should’ve played to their fears and lack of tolerance?
And here’s the deal, President Bannon is smart. He saw how some clever people learned from the big tobacco failures (in court with massive payouts) that you don’t need to enter into a debate. All you need to to is sell the world on the idea that there is a debate, where one hadn’t existed before.
You don’t even have to waste time creating counter arguments (that’s too much work, and requires research and footnotes). No all you have to do is conjure a myth that “others smarter than us all are not convinced.” Wasn’t that fun? See how that works? You don’t even have to invent a lie that can be struck down with facts.
And it works. We now have an entrenched view on the so-called right that there is a climate debate, which is all the daylight they need to drive a wedge into.
Why am I only now fired up about this? Because not only is shock and awe being used to try and wrest our country from us, but people are trying to use it in everyday life.
Which brings me back to my past FB skirmish with my so-called conservative-leaning former friend. This experience showed me the very personal face of astounding arrogance and audacity and I responded exactly the way I those of on the left classically do.
It started when I shared a posting on FB describing Evangeline’s protest to President Bannon’s “beard” (whom some are referring to as simply “45”) about his recent executive order to rescind the guidance by President Obama’s protections for trans kids using the bathroom in public schools. Evangeline has a trans sister and she felt (maybe naively) that her singing the national Anthem at the inauguration bought her a piece of 45’s ear. That she feels betrayed and appropriated is not getting her any sympathy from those who suffered at the hands of men, especially this man, but hey, she tried. Good for her.
And I pointed out to all of those who said give 45 a chance, that these were his true colors, he is a coward who will sell out everyone, breaking promises to the most vulnerable, in order to play to his base.
And then the comments started to flood in. One man (who I went to high school with) asked a genuine question about the legitimacy of this issue and was answered by several of my Facebook friends. In this case, they were all real friends of mine who were also FB friends, because they jumped to make it clear to this guy “what was what.”
But then “the friend from my adolescence” who I nicknamed “Stever,” decided he was the new authority on all things trans. And he let his opinion that this issue (transgender) was a mental illness, a “disorder” that didn’t require a society to accommodate, and therefore didn’t require the protections promised by Title IX.
Before I could answer, he was buried by my FB posse. But… he doubled down. Each attempt at argument revealing more of his arrogance, misunderstanding, prejudices and biases.
It was… mind-blowing. And I was shocked at his arrogance and awed by his audacity.
I struck back. I called out his misunderstanding and irresponsibility in perpetuating these lies that not even Fox News agrees with.
But he continued.
And I was immediately taken back to countless hours spent defending him to our other friends in high school who never could understand him. But I did. And I stood beside him, fought for him. And never abandoned him.
And… I admit. He hadn’t changed a bit. Even in high school he was an expert in everything we talked about. Back then I though of his arrogance as confidence, his audacity, charming. Inspiring, even. But here, now, I also hadn’t changed, and my old Pollyanna self was blindsided that he was could be so “in bed with the enemy.”
So I tried three separate times to get him to see how just “out of line” he was.
If I could show him how silly it was for him to negate my lived experience with something he read on the internet, we would both have a good laugh. He would thank me for opening his eyes. And we would listen to Rush (the Canadian Power trio, not the Pill Popper). And then his mom would call us to dinner and I’d have to call my mom and ask if I could stay.
But something has changed in all these years. Not just between friends, but our desire to be friends has eroded with the acid rain of social media. What’s happened to us? Maybe it's because it’s anonymous. It’s not like a real conversation. We can’t see our words reflected in the actual face of the listener.
Marcy even tried to knock some sense into Stever, posting in very plain language that there was no way he could ever know more than I on this subject.
Would he see that? Could he ever recognize his folly and hubris if he couldn’t see my face?
But… I still had faith that the years spent dreaming together of being in a rock band (he plays guitar, I was supposed to be the keyboardist, even tho’ I would’ve preferred to be the drummer), sword fighting together in the forest (with homemade katanas we made in his father’s woodshop), and writing screenplays for the fantasy epics (that I would direct and he would star in), would amount to something. I just knew that he had to have an ember of the “me” in his heart that I could blow on and get my friend back. I didn’t dare hope at this point that he would know what living in my life was, but I did have hope that he would see how silly he was to think he could possibly know more than me and that his opinion could really hurt me physically and emotionally, and, if nothing else, I had hoped that he would at least…
… stop working against me.
But… no. He tripled down, if that’s possible, choosing instead to make it my job to convince him that I and my community are valid and worthy. Rather than do his own inquiry to find out where he got it so wrong, was at odds with the world’s medical community, the US military and decent humans everywhere, was so, let’s face it, out of sync, Stever was holding out... holding on. Digging his heels in…
So I… opted out.
I lost a friend (probably one that I never really had?) and I learned that nothing is ever going to change his and his brethren’s minds.
What’s maybe the most troubling is that Stever’s shock & awe campaign had no discernible goal, and maybe that’s the worst of all. What could he have possibly hoped to gain? What was the point of demonstrating to the world (at least the FB world on my feed) how misinformed, arrogant and audacious he is? With others who use this tactic, they are bulldozing toward financial gain, as with President Bannon. But Stever would only, could only lose once he chose to stay in the fight.
And he did. He lost me. And I’m not sure that even matters to him. But he didn’t gain anything.
So what to do?
This isn’t an area where we can “agree to disagree.” My identity is not “up for debate” nor is “the jury still out” as to whether Gender Dysphoria is real. However, Stever, with all his outdated and misguided opinions, can still vote. He can still support any number of the attempts to institutionalize discrimination. So… I have to care what he thinks.
I guess this is why we have to enact laws to protect us from the obvious. My father used to say that locks only keep an honest man honest. If the general goodness of humanity would always prevail, we wouldn’t need locks, we wouldn’t have laws and we wouldn’t have wars.
But we do have laws, and the one that rules our land is a set of principles that make us the United States of America. Our constitution. You would think, the mere spirit and philosophy of it would be enough. But because there are always those who will try to bend the rules away from the shared collective good to a zero-sum gain of individual power and wealth, we have to enact amendments. Even these should be enough. But when they haven’t been (as in the civil rights act of 1964, which cited not only article one, but also the 14th & 15th amendments), we had to create laws that spell out what everyone should’ve known, but elected instead to bend.
So, even our laws aren’t enough? Apparently not. Our morals and American values are under fire again by those who want “freedom and justice for those who think and look like me,” instead of the true American values of united we stand, and liberty and justice for all.
How do we get back to that?
And where did this movement to dismantle our principles come from? More importantly, where are the patriots who would protect these sacred values?
Um, that would be US.
Where are the patriots? Well, we’re easy to spot. We’re out in the streets. We wear pink knit hats. We show up at the airports. We are flooding the town halls, and we’re the ones who will vote your devisive, discriminating, hate-filled hearts out of office in 2017 and 2018.
But until then, how will we deal with shock & awe, both on the national level and in our very own homes, or even with those whom we ourselves have stood up for and with in the past; our so-called friends?
It worked for Gandhi.
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"