Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Motherfucking Empathy, y'all. And Oprah.

     Today was my day off. After my new normal of waking up to the laundry list of damage Donald Trump has done to the country, and his subsequent psychopathic Twitter-storm about God knows what after I went to sleep the night before, I decided to take a mental health day. I have been in an absolute panic since January 20, and there is only so much my body can take. So I decided to do my most favorite thing. Roller skate and podcasts.

     Podcast search brought up a series about Oprah and her show. Good deal, I love her. But I clicked on the last episode, "Making Donahue", first. I remember Donahue from childhood, because dad watched it every day, so that meant I did too. At first I hated it. I remember it being a lot of yelling, people calling in to add their opinions, my dad talking back to the TV, and feeling sorry for a lot of these people because they seemed upset. It was an awful lot to take in for a kid.
     As I got older, I looked forward to hearing the latest topic and meeting these people who were nothing like the people I knew in real life. They were fascinating. Sometimes they had different accents, or they wore different clothes. They were different races. They were scared of things I never considered threats. They cried when people were nice to them. They were angry when no one else was. The vast and intricate details of their lives and issues were right there for me to see and feel and think about. I had a face to connect to the confusing things the adults in my life would blurb about at dinner. People were amazing creatures and I wanted to know more.

     I remember starting to watch Oprah's show around Jr. High. It was similar to Donahue in some ways, but had a more...nurturing feel. By the time I got to high school, I was hooked. I grew up in a white bubble for sure, but it was a uniquely diverse bubble, in the way that rich kid college towns are, If that makes sense. Anyway, Oprah continued to rock my little world like Donahue had, but she required me to understand, not just gawk. Oprah asked us all to understand. To consider the point of view of another from their shoes, as closely as possible. She had a way of asking questions that was so simple and so...biting. On the regular, guests would take her question and have to pause, the way you have to pause when a good therapist asks you a question. You HAVE TO think. She made us listen. She made it desirable to have the "Aha! moment", which is sometimes just a more favorable way to admit you are wrong in your previous assumptions and now see the forest through the trees.

     That's when it hit me. Donald Trump is Oprah's fucking fault. She ended her show in 2011, and the world started to deteriorate after that. Empathy is lost and even further, empathy is not considered a positive trait by a third of the population. We started dividing ourselves up by labels and political parties, and we stopped trying to see anyone else's point of view. Live and let live died. We even started getting mad when anyone even asked us to consider another person's feelings. And THEN, we were so pissed off about the general population refusing to listen to our struggle, that we stopped taking responsibility for our own emotions. We started to make our problems, everyone else's problem. We stopped trying to control our emotional reactions, and wore out everyone around us and the "snowflake" was born. Oprah wasn't there to explain our feelings to us in her signature "Aha!" and nurturing way, and we lost our fucking minds.

     I don't know how many people remember when the term "politically correct" came into use, but I remember that the point was to be aware of insensitive speech and unintentional aggression toward people of minority populations. Translation: let's be culturally accurate in our terminology. It's Native American, not redskin. Gay, rather than faggot. African American instead of negro or whatever other weird shit y'all used to say. It was simple, it was reasonable, and it was a social evolution toward intelligent discourse and it SHOULD have helped make us more comfortable interacting with each other in a changing world. In a world where the internet was brand new and we had the exciting and new opportunity to connect with people from all over the planet. It was the newest revision to basic fucking etiquette.
     I think it started out great, until white fragility entered the picture. Hang on, I don't hate white people. I won't shame you. I recognize that constantly being told you are wrong and not good enough is naturally going to make you defensive and even combative (Irony, much?), so that's not where I want to go here. But I have to tell you that if your reaction to criticism is always rejection, you aren't doing yourself any favors. Being able to say, "Shit. I thought this thing, but maybe it's actually this other thing", opens up the world and makes everything less scary. No one likes to feel stupid. Everyone likes to feel like they are on top of things. And even though it causes two minutes of discomfort, after that initial moment it is really a relief. You become more aware. You can function  more easily in a changing culture. That's a good thing, because evolution doesn't stop. To put it harshly, trying to swim upstream is just going to hurt, until you die from exhaustion.

     And now, instead of coming home from school and learning that the world is small and we have more in common with each other than we don't, we have an entire news network devoted to propaganda and their chief message is that political correctness is a big looming monster that stole religion and decency and family values. My own grandmother told me that getting rid of political correctness will stop all these shootings and violence and terrorism... The woman is a fucking doctor. Educated to death. What the fuck. The world asked her to stop saying Mulatto so she lost her shit and voted in a dictator. WHERE WAS OPRAH IN THIS TRANSITION? I swear to the Gods, if Oprah was here this wouldn't have happened. She would have had a show with refugees repairing American flags at the City hall, and people with alternate pronouns walking their dogs like regular people, and showed a straight white man in a dress what it's like to use the gender specific bathroom that matches the gender on his birth certificate and shit would be peaceful right now. Fucking Oprah.

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