Changing Minds

Okay I want to talk about something that happened a few weeks ago (yup, I knew I would get lazy). A “protest” outside of a local Applebee’s that is just across from where I work. Oh neat, another group of people yelling their opinions and other random tasteless phrases at people passing by that I’m sure cared to stop and listen to them. I did care to some degree. Not actually about what they were standing out there for, but why they were standing out there. Work was slower that day, so I asked my supervisor if I could walk over there and see what it was all about.

Upon reaching this group of around 15 people give or take, I skimmed each face to see who I wanted to try to approach individually. They all changed their angry like demeanor to a more friendly one as if to coerce me to join them. I admitted I just wanted to see their signs and colorful artwork. One sign had the character “Where’s Waldo?” on it with Roy Blunt’s face on the red and white striped body with text that read “Where’s Roy?” Props for creativity, since most of the other signs seemed to read of Trump this and Trump that. I approached an older gentleman towards the far side of the group and simply asked, “So what’s up with all of this? Why are y’all out here with signs and stuff?” He briefly explained that he is a veteran with many concerns on healthcare and how our country is going to be run. He said that Roy Blunt was supposed to come to Cape to hear their complaints, but apparently sent some secretary instead, and that wasn’t good enough. I politely listened and moved towards the other side of the line to three ladies with signs that read of climate change, healthcare, and the usual screw Trump lingo. I asked them the same question, “What are you out here for?” It was like reading off of a PowerPoint with them. Each of them talked about whatever their sign read. One lady said a lot about climate change and how the weather being so warm in February was an omen of what’s to come (yeah more protests ‘cus who wants to stand out in 30 degree weather). All while they explained their points, occasionally they would interrupt their speech to me in order to yell at passing cars. Maybe this triggered me to ask my next question of, “What do you hope to accomplish by standing out here with signs and yelling at people driving by?” Thankfully they didn’t interpret my question as condescendingly as I may had delivered it. They explained they simply want people to become aware of the problems that they see, and know that even with (Missouri) being such a red state, that their opinions matter too.

Sure, okay, understandable. Valid point that of course their opinions matter just as much as the next guy. I may be lazy, but I still do not see much of a point to “protesting” on any degree. From small scale and generalized like this one, to the riots of Ferguson on racial issues and riots in Portland on Trump’s election. I don’t mean to just blow it all off as stupid by any means, even though personally, yes I do think protests and riots are absolutely repulsive and unnecessary, I do think I have valid reasons on why all of it is a waste of time and more or less just overdone ploys for attention.

Think of yourself for a minute. Think of every time in your life that you had reached an impasse in your beliefs and behavior, and then concluded “You know what? Maybe that is worth changing.” How did this consideration of change permeate your mind? For myself, I can recall many times speaking to different individuals about different topics and reaching a point that maybe changed my mind a bit on what I had thought previously. Maybe not a complete 180, but a step in the direction of seeing things from a different perspective. What I cannot recall, is a time that I’ve had a bunch of people yelling at me and harassing me about how my thoughts and beliefs are all wrong and that I should just change them because I am out manned and out argued in comparison to them. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is all protests appear to be.

I am friends with people of so many diverse backgrounds. It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know what is outside the “walls” of my hometown area. I want to know more about the world. I want to know more about how other individuals experience their own worlds. Not everyone is like me of course. Not everyone is willing to see beyond the boundaries that define them. Sometimes, people need to accept that. For example, if you run into some racist “asshole,” you can only try to persuade them so much to believe otherwise. Maybe that individual has a bad experience with another individual or a group of people from a different background than themselves, so they developed a prejudice towards any people that have similar backgrounds to the person or people that treated them wrongly. It would be difficult to change their mind simply by telling them they should change. Their mind has formed a schema in order to protect themselves from perceived harm, every human being does this, even when an over generalization may be absolutely incorrect. If you want to see that racist asshole change, I would say the better tactic is to exemplify a more pleasant persona that would contradict their preconceived notions about specific kinds of people. Not gathering up a group of people that fits the discriminatory schema that the individual has formed and parading around screaming at people to change their minds.

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