I’m very much an introvert but I’m that introvert who’s always managed to do well socially. Somewhere along the way in life, I guess starting in middle school, I developed a very short fuse when I’d see the strong attack the weak. As a freshman in high school this got me in a lot of trouble because I didn’t care if you were a senior and a staple of our nationally-recognized football team: If I saw you picking on someone who was clearly too afraid or incapable of defending themselves, I was going to get in the middle of it by referencing your mom, sister and/or girlfriend in the context of group sex involving all of your friends. Luckily a handful of credible senior guys and foxy senior girls warmed to me pretty quickly either despite or because of this, so I only got beat up a few times before I was largely considered off limits.
I could personally handle just about anything that came my way be it rhetorical or physical and was fortunate to learn pretty young that my mouth was my best weapon and fighting should only be a last resort and only for self-defense, but something about seeing peers who were easier targets get grief…that set me off every time. And I don’t mean “set me off” in an unhinged way. I’d stay pretty measured, but in my far more intemperate younger years I could never stay quiet no matter the situation.
If I were at a party and I’d see one or a group of kids show up who “the cool kids” thought didn’t belong, I’d head straight for that person or group and spend the rest of the night hanging out with them with the hope that it would inspire their confidence to never stop finding their place or taking chances socially. If I was too late and the “cool kids” already started ganging up on them, I’d find a way to diffuse things and then…spend the rest of the night hanging out with them with the hope that it would inspire their confidence to never stop finding their place or taking chances socially.
I say and use quotation marks around “cool kids” because I never counted myself among those crowds. They liked me a lot but I never liked most of them all that much as most earned their place in pubescent hierarchies based entirely on synthetic qualities. My real friends, the tight-knit groups I kept in middle school, high school, college and still today…were always the more thoughtful, interesting and hilarious ones still capable of a raging good time.
By the time I got to college I had this all pretty much down to a science and it enabled a swagger that had me running things pretty quickly. As a freshman I had the fraternities wanting me to rush with some promising I’d never have to pay dues (though I never did rush), a handful of football players who for some unknown reason would rather hang out in my dorm than their off campus houses, and most of the Deadheads hanging on to nearly everything I did. A basketball player who went on to become famous used to ask me out loud to cheat off him in class because he was cheating off the girl next to him and the professors never got in this guy’s way. (He and I have since laughed about this and if he stumbles on this blog he’ll laugh about it again, but even though I didn’t know I was an introvert back in college, I still valued my alone time greatly. Most people respected this. If I didn’t answer the phone or door, they’d move on. This guy haha, he’d actually knock on the doors and windows saying “I know you’re in there! I can see your car outside!” No matter how much I wanted to be alone, I couldn’t help but love the tenacity haha. Granted I’d never relent, but it’d give me a decent laugh.) The bartenders used to serve my real friends and me pitchers of Captain & Coke while everyone else stood in line waiting for 8 ouncers, and the bouncers would show up at our afterhours parties bringing several cases of beer. I was a half-ass lead guitar player who reluctantly sang too because someone had to, and my two man “band” would pack the place every time we played.
In one way or another, everyone’s got ’em.
My professional life hasn’t been much different. I spent the first few years working diligently to find my place but soon went from being a part-time contributor to a full-time leader in every role I’ve had since. And as noted in my Very Candid Cover Letter:
If you have someone on the team who enjoys tearing others down, I’ll find and humble that person.
If you have someone on the team who needs to be lifted up, I’ll find and inspire them.
If there are people on your team who quietly carry the success of the organization day in and day out but rarely get the credit they’re due…I’ll put them at the top of my org chart and personally credit them every chance I get.
And if you think this post is about me bragging, you’re wrong. I’m leaving plenty of details out but look around this blog a bit. Banging out 1,000 words unfortunately comes very easy for me. It’s a deficiency I intend to work on in tandem with having started this blog, but the above serves to tee up a bigger point, which is this…
I’m no stranger to being on top and wielding some power relative to my surroundings.
I don’t think the same is true for many of our most amplified voices in the conservative movement.
Today, in the conservative movement, I’m the little guy. I’m the one who’s so far removed from the “cool” circles that they don’t know or care if I exist. If I “show up to one of their parties” (ie, insert myself in their conversations), I’m entirely invisible to them no matter what I say or do unless I outright pick a fight with them.
This is particularly challenging for me for two reasons.
First and I guess least importantly with respect to the purpose of this post, is that I believe I have unique and potentially landscape-shifting messaging and ideas to offer and it sucks that I’ll probably never get them out there in a meaningful way until/unless the “cool” conservatives accept me.
Second and more importantly with respect to the purpose of this post, is that my fuse is still super short when I see the strong attacking the weak…but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it at this point. If I insert myself be it based on frustration or substance when I see the amplified/strong conservative “leaders” picking on someone weak, they and their insiders-only friends just do what they do to everyone else: Gang up on me and as soon as I manage to start swinging back, they just block me.
I see the strong-on-weak gratuitous violence happening a lot with the onset of social media.
I’m not going to lie: One of the reasons I was compelled to join the national political conversation as an adult is that I’d grown up watching conservatives and Republicans get absolutely pummeled by the typically more artful and hurtful left. The conservative Christian in middle America who just wants to be left alone to raise his/her family with strong values and morals is often no match for Bill Maher or his minions when it comes to a battle of wits. Many on the right are entirely helpless when confronted with the left’s aggressively mean, intentionally hurtful attacks. And seeing it makes my blood boil. (Note: That I came to know ‘liberty’ as an inherent moral good and Democrats as historically-consistent in their penchants for segregation and bigotry, happened either simultaneously with my being tired of seeing the right get beat up by the left, or shortly thereafter. I’m not sure which, but it’s sure as sh*t here now…evidenced by just about every other post I’ve put on this blog.)
I’m so appreciative of the work the team at Twitchy does because they’ve found several well-armed conservative voices in social media who are more than equipped to fight fire with fire when it comes to the left’s intentionally hurtful attacks. Twitchy’s mission, at least from my perspective, goes something like this: Look for the left being hateful and hurtful, capture the most effective conservative retorts, and then publish them so that all of Twitchy’s readers can hop on board and flood the otherwise free-wheeling, never-swung-on, celebrity leftist with so much ferocity and pushback that they’ll think twice before punching down again.
It’s brilliant and just and long overdue.
But during GOP primary season and most notably with Trump supporters being so ferocious in their defense of The Donald and so ferociously attacked by Trump’s detractors — many of our smartest and most amplified conservative voices regularly take to punching down on otherwise unknowns in the conservative grassroots. Earlier tonight I put it as captured below, ultimately inspiring this post…
I used to see the left do this a lot. Josh Barro and Andrew Kaczynski were notorious for it, and probably still are but I wouldn’t know because they blocked me after I said this…
And I don’t know, apparently both of these guys are conservatives also…? It’s always hard to tell. If they are, they both hate the conservative grassroots because all they do is gratuitously punch down on them.
At any rate, I’d seen a lot of it from what I at least think/thought is the left, but during this GOP primary season I’m seeing a lot more of it from our most amplified conservatives who I probably should name but won’t because a major point of starting this blog was to find a way to express myself without pissing anyone off I might otherwise agree with politically and strategically away from the insider-only-exclusivity rampant among amplified conservatism’s social media cliques and groupthink.
But the strong-and-amplified shaming the often-weak-and-otherwise-voiceless into very public infamy is happening all over the place. And believe me, I too have endured the scorn of diehard Trump mobs. It’s anything but pretty or fair, and I concluded they often amount to a lot of people running around with blindfolds and pitchforks. But even I, the little guy in this world of conservative activism, was able to see past it and know these are really just fired up people who in many cases don’t have the rhetorical or intellectual capability that those they’re battling do. And they’ve endured that burden for a long time, finally hearing a candidate who speaks very clearly to them and they can be excited about. These are the Trump supporters, and of course not all of them…but many who are particularly active and ubiquitous amid their enthusiasm. And I clarify “Trump supporters” because while people who enthusiastically mistake slingshots for atom bombs are not exactly who I have in mind when I talk about defending the weak, many of them are the weak who for the first time in their lives feel a bit empowered. For the love of all that’s holy let them have that, or at least don’t use your tremendously amplified platform to shame them in to infamy for trying however futilely to get the best of you. You’re entitled and responsible as an amplified voice in the conservative movement to steer as you see fit, but mean-spirited shaming of otherwise unknowns into infamy is just gratuitous and says more about you than it does about them.
The same is true, and this is definitely something I’d see much more on the left than the right, of attacking people with poor spelling and/or grammar. But again, increasingly, I’m seeing it not only by conservatives against the left (which is so wrong that it negates “fire with fire” and I discourage) — but by conservatives against conservatives. These people are armed with plastic butter knives in the middle of written gunfights and you’re going to mock them for having the courage to show up regardless? There’s plenty to attack substantively based on ideas rather than beating up on them in a public forum for not knowing “their” from “there.” They’re not as well-armed as you. But they care enough to show up anyway and if you’re going to address them at all — berating them for doing so rather than engaging them substantively is as unfair as it is mean as it is counter-productive.
“We can only take so much. The Trump supporters et al pound us by the 1000s and by the way they’re on course to totally destroy our country based on their support of Trump.”
Let’s set aside that I think something very unfortunate has blinded our most respected and amplified conservative voices from objectively auditing Trump with a long lens for reasons that today may be more personal than political. Barring that, my response to the “We can only take so much” argument is that you’re effectively King Kong on social media so spare me the pain you endure from barely audible hisses and barks of cats and dogs 20 stories below you. And again, if you aim to correct what you see as a misguided course — gratuitous public shaming for weakly-asserted passions is not the way to do it.
I don’t like seeing the strong attack the weak. I think it too is an incredible sign of weakness, and leads me to believe many of our most amplified voices in the conservative movement have never before known any semblance of what power feels like. This, in the highly visible digital age, does not bode well for us. It means rather than just fighting the left’s fire with fire as I’d come to do on my own and appreciate seeing others now do with more visibility through tools like Twitchy, the conservative grassroots who I hoped to help defend from the left’s better-armed, entirely unfair and gratuitous attacks…are increasingly targets for better-armed conservatives who are sadly also prone to dishing out unfair and gratuitous attacks.
If you’re shooting for the conservative public square to become a monarchy of elitist exclusivity, groupthink and fear…you’re doing it right.
But if that’s not your goal, and you’re an amplified conservative voice who’s succumb to demonstrating weakness in light of your power, I plead with you to take a few steps back and appreciate that these are simply very impassioned people who are likely no match for you and at a minimum ought not be shamed in to infamy for having the courage to show up and swing at your feet while you stand high above humiliating any you don’t outright crush.