Sunday, January 17, 2021

When the broken people see the light.


Gerd Altmann | Pixabay
Now that we've had a week and a half or so to settle our thoughts after the debacle at the US Capitol on January 6th, I'm starting to see some anecdotal evidence that some people -- particularly some of the folks who fell for the QAnon conspiracy mess -- are beginning to come around. 

Maybe it's not a lot of people yet. But at least a few folks who fell down the rabbit hole into Trumplandia or the QAnon insanity saw the anarchy on TV that day, learned that people died because of it, and realized what they'd gotten themselves into.

Getting themselves into it was easier than you might think. A game developer wrote a very interesting Medium post that explains how QAnon appeals to people. He says it follows the basic structure of an alternate-reality game: a mysterious stranger hands a player a clue in the form of a puzzle; solving that puzzle gives the player another puzzle; and on and on through the game. Players have to free-associate to solve the puzzles (the author says there's a term for that: apophenia, or seeing a meaningful pattern in random thoughts or ideas). Sometimes players band together in groups to discuss possible solutions. 

The difference is that in an alternate-reality game, the players know it's just a game. With QAnon, people were led to believe it was real. In the author's words, QAnon is "[a] game that plays people. (cue ominous music)"

I'm not a gamer, but I do write fiction, and I'm confident I've used the trope of the mysterious stranger a time or two. But I'm making stuff up. I'm not sending readers off on a real-life snipe hunt -- certainly not one that could get anybody killed.

So let's go back to the QAnon believers who watched the storming of the Capitol on January 6th and woke up to what they were involved in. What should be done about them?

I vote for compassion.

That's not to say that everybody involved in the riot should get a pass. Those who broke the law -- by breaking windows, ignoring law enforcement orders to stop, beating cops with flagpoles, stealing from congressional offices, defecating in the halls of Congress, and all the rest -- should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any members of Congress who assisted the anarchists should also be prosecuted, and it would be really swell if they also lost their jobs. And those at the top who encouraged this -- up to and including President Trump -- should pay a price for what they've done. Trump has already been impeached a second time for encouraging his followers to storm the Capitol; I hope this time the Senate convicts him and makes sure he can never hold office again.

But what about Mom and Pop at home? They've seen the results of all the stuff they've been led to believe, and maybe it's not sitting too well with them now. What should we do? 

I suggest giving them space to grieve. They were all-in on a common cause. They probably made friends -- and I am here to tell you that online friendships are every bit as real as in-person friendships, and it hurts just as badly when they fall apart. Losing all of that is going to be tough. Give them room to process it, but be there if they want to talk about it, and be kind to them when they do. 

Because just like the people who were killed and injured at the Capitol on the 6th, these folks are victims. They were taken in by accomplished liars. They're already going to be kicking themselves. Don't make it worse by making fun of them or practicing some kind of tough love. Because that will drive them away at the precise moment when we want to bring them home to reality.

This, my friends, is how we're going to heal our country: by granting forgiveness to those who have seen the light, one broken person at a time.


In other news: I should have mentioned this earlier, but my Facebook author page is kaput. After I fought so hard to get the page back from the scammers in November, I thought maybe I'd keep it around. But the final straw was when I got a couple of requests to join the Woo-Woo Team from folks with seriously sketchy Facebook profiles. (One said she was from New York, Florida; then she changed her location to Botswana. Uh-huh.) It felt to me like the scammers were trying to get into the back end of my page via the group, which is not a thing I would ever allow and I'm not sure how it would even work. In any case, the author page is now gone for good. But the Woo-Woo Team still exists - yay! And we're still taking members -- double yay! 

In still more news: I need to get busy on editing the NaNo novel, which still doesn't have a title. I expect it will be slow going, now that I'm working as a proofreader for the New Mexico Legislature. This year's session starts Tuesday and I'll be working seven days a week (remotely, thank the gods) until it's over on March 20th -- which also happens to be Ostara. Normally I'd release a new book around that date, but this time I'm going to shoot for Beltane or thereabouts, and we can all be pleasantly surprised if it's done sooner.


These moments of compassionate blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. You know the drill -- mask up, social distance, and wash your hands!


Illume Eltanin said...

I keep thinking about what Arnold Schwarzenegger said about his father and neighbors in Austria after the Nazianz regime in Austria during the speech he posted last week. I agree those who were actively insurrectionists need to be held accountable. I believe those who supported Donny Boy and honestly believe what the Tea Party and far right have told them need to be deprogrammed. I believe they need to learn to research from all sides, rather than buy in to what is most commonly heard in their area.

But, we need to avoid leading them to unproductive guilt, which may lead, as in the case of Schwarzenegger's father and neighbors, excessive drinking and abusing loved ones. If we can find a productive, caring outlet for these people to assuage any guilt they may be harboring, I think we then may turn the tide toward healing, and potentially, eventual unity.

Lynne Cantwell said...

Thanks for bringing up Schwarzenegger's video! I should have mentioned it. You're absolutely right -- we need to do our best to avoid what happened in Germany after the war. We know so much more now about the psychology that underlies shame as well as grief, and about how to help those who suffer from them. We have no excuse -- we must do better.