Fighting Vitriol and Hate with Vitriol and Hate Doesn’t Work…

Earlier today, I saw this video pop up in my Facebook feed. As I started to watch it, I asked myself, “Why does the lady holding the sign look SO familiar?” When the answer hit me, I yelled to my wife, “HEY! The lady who got hit with the slushie is the hateful lady I debated with at that huge garage sale event!” Yet, I was not happy that she had been doused in a frosty, frozen, convenience store beverage.

Here is the back story… A few months ago the, “Greater Indianapolis Garage Sale,” was taking place at the State Fair Grounds. Since I am a picker and ebay seller, I decided to head up one afternoon with my family to see what we could find. I had not more than walked into the large room with hundreds of booths before I saw a table in the middle of the room surrounded by three huge signs decrying gay marriage, threatening Hell to sinners, and explaining why Monster energy drinks were of the Devil. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, isn’t that special?” It was going to be a while before we got to that booth, but I committed to myself to suss out and confront this person’s ideology.

When we got to the both, the woman running it was holding up an empty can of Monster (I hope she did not buy it, rather found it so she did not have to put money in the Antichrist’s pocket) while pontificating to the person in front of her about why the Monster logo was really “666.” Spooky stuff.

So, I waited a few moments for her to finish and then started asking her questions. She, as very fundamentalist religious people go, was not really interested in my questions or dialogue, rather only the opportunity to “rebuke” me for something. I switched gears from dialogue to debate mode and off we went. Over the next 45+ minutes we drew quite a crowd as well as attention from people running booths nearby. I’ll admit, she had me on angst and volume. I relied on the Socratic Method and asking her to demonstrate the reliability of her epistemological base in order to change my mind toward her position. I sensed a great deal of internal trepidation in her anytime I tried to test her ideology with reason and logic. Her main ammunition was vitriolic charges about my supposed character and assertions that I would be tortured in an imaginary place for eternity after I died. The other unfortunate thing for her was, my knowledge of the Bible itself was superior to hers. So, I not only had to discuss with her on one level about ideology in general, but I also spent time correcting her on her own assertions based on the Bible. It was a bit tiring I must admit.

I knew there was only the slightest chance that I would get through to such a person on any level. Yet, it was important for me to try. The greatest encouragement was, two of my kids, my wife, and a crowd of people were listening to our conversation. They saw and heard, not only what we communicated, but how. I tested her ideas, she insulted me. I implored her to rise above her archaic dogma, she condemned me to hell fire. I did not go ad hominem, she arrogantly called me names. She insulted me to my kids, I told them she was a scared person and a bully. As we eventually concluded our parley at an obvious impasse and I walked off, several other people thanked me for trying to get through to her and for how I went about it. At the risk of hubris, I was actually very proud afterward of how I had handled myself.

Then today, when I saw the video of her, Christine Weick, being slushie assaulted, it really bummed me out. Here is why:
1. It is her right to stand on a public corner and spew her nonsense if she wants to. She did not deserve to be treated in the way that the other pedestrian treated her. The other woman should have presented her own case, called Christine out on her hatefulness, explained the error of it, and then left. The second woman had no right to dump a drink on Christine and she made an ass of herself.
2. Christine and many similar people who see the video will generalize the other woman’s behavior as, “how liberals are,” and it will only serve to justify their own behavior.
3. The only thing that any other passerby could have gotten from the whole exchange was something negative. There was nothing to use as a positive, teachable example from either person in the situation.
4. Last and most important… You cannot fight vitriol and hate with vitriol and hate.

Due to the road noise adjacent to the two women, I could not make out everything that was being said. Ultimately, you had two hateful people, on different sides of one particular issue, threatening each other that the God that they both happen to have on their own side would be tossing the other into Hell. I was emotionally sickened by each of them and their words toward one another.

So, if we cannot glean a lesson from positive example, we can learn one from the negative…

We MUST hold ourselves to a higher standard my fellow humans. We must refrain from personal attacks when debating with even the most hateful person. Many times, like schoolyard bullies, dogmatic bullies are actually very weak, scared, and trying to compensate for that. Even if we are not able to break through to such people, our behavior and tact can be a positive example for others. Only that will help all of humanity to grow and be freed from the chains of credulity, hatred, condemnation, and a lack of empathy toward others. It is of paramount importance that we stand up to such hateful people. BUT… we must do it the right way. Do not become them in an attempt to beat them. As my mom always told me, “Be careful that you do not become what you hate.”

-Luke

UPDATE! 11/9/2014- Here is a video of Weick that I randomly saw pop up on the front page of youtube today:

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2 thoughts on “Fighting Vitriol and Hate with Vitriol and Hate Doesn’t Work…

  1. Thank you Luke,
    As a gay man, a spouse and a parent, I am thankful that there are individuals like you who support justice and equality.
    Two years ago, Maryland had the question of same sex marriage on the ballot. While I stood in line to vote, I watched, neighbors with young children in line, older folks and wondered how many of them were against me and my family( of course taking this decision personally).
    When I departed the school, in the parking lot, there were several individuals wearing tee shirts with derogatory slogans(against) messages. I was insensed. This was the school my children had attended. As I walked to my car, I could no longer keep quiet. I turned back and confronted the group.I asked them if they knew any gay couples or parents. They replied that they did not. I asked why they thought that I as a gay person and a parent should be denied the legal security of marriage. I guess no one had confronted them before.
    As I walked away, a man ran up to me, hugged me and thanked me for my actions. He said;” I hope to dance at my son’s wedding. He’s gay.
    I felt so blessed and thankful to find that same sex marriage was passed. I wish that I could thank every straight person who supported us.

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your story Dave! Also, thank you for challenging their ideology. You are correct. Most of those folks live in a bubble of confirmation bias and do not have their thinking tested. Some times when people do react to them, it is like the woman above, very emotionally charged. It is important that we DO confront them/their thinking, yet with a level of dignity and having the ability to effectively communicate our own more liberated way of thinking. I wish you and your family the best! -Luke

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