Sometimes, we don’t need facts. That’s a weird thing to come to terms with, because facts are often all we have. When someone posts a picture of a baby with the words “VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM” stamped on top of it, facts are what allow us to say “We understand that you want the best for your child, but no.” When someone denies climate change with “JET FUEL CAN’T MELT ICE CAPS” or whatever, facts are what we bring up in our mission to make them realize that we are the ones in charge of saving our planet.
It’s been said a lot lately that we now live in a “post truth” society, where fact and fiction and lies and conspiracies and memes and clickbait and “Well, ACTUALLY” have all smushed together into a Voltron of awfulness. And that sucks, because, again, facts are some of the best weapons that we have at our disposal. Facts can fight current injustices, just as easily as they can quell potential ones. Do research, learn from a variety of sources that come from a variety of backgrounds, and keep truth in your arsenal. Weapon metaphor, weapon metaphor, etc.
I’ve seen a lot of fear over the past few days, and as someone with an internet connection, I’ve also seen a lot of Facebook over the past few days. I’ve watched friends try to put into words how they feel about the results of the election, often in ways that contain more eloquence than I could ever muster. Seriously, I have some very, very smart, beautiful friends. They are wonderful, and they illuminate my Batman & Dinosaur-themed corner of the world more than they know.
Some of them are absolutely terrified, and some of them are hurting. Some of them are shadowboxing with pain, in a way that a lot of us do when we just wish that we could find a cure for it. I feel for those people, because I love them, and I love all of the people that they care about. And then I see someone, wielding facts as the be-all, end-all God hand, smacking down on what they’re attempting to express. “YOU DO KNOW THAT…” “HAVE YOU READ…” “DON’T BUY INTO THE…” “THAT’S NOT A REAL CONCERN…”
90% of the time, these people are on the same side. They want the same outcome, but are going about it in very different ways at the moment. I struggled for a long time over whether or not I wanted to write something about what’s currently going on in my country, because my friends are so smart and I poured coffee on myself yesterday because I misjudged the cup’s distance from my mouth by about a damn foot. I’m also not the most politically-savvy person in the world, so making a grand statement about Trump or the Electoral College or, ya know, anything other than a definitive ranking of the Hellraiser movies, would probably lead to me learning what I’ve always secretly suspected: Oh no, I’m really am an idiot.
I’m not saying, in some weird objective way, that feelings are better than fact. Keep facts with you. They’re so, so, so important. But, for the well-being of your fellow humans, sometimes “How are you feeling?” is just as important. Making an effort to empathize with the people around you, rather than provide a text-based solution, can work wonders. Listen to them. What they’re feeling probably doesn’t counter-act the statistics you’ve acquired, nor are they trying to push you back because we live in some Rankin Bass Claymation Christmas special, where facts are cold and mean, and feeeeeelings are warm and know the way to Santa. “How are you feeling?” probably won’t fix what ails them, but at least it tells them that you give a shit, and that you’ll fight for them.
So, before you sling that chart from your holster (I can’t quit you, metaphors), ask how they’re doing. People are a complex mixture of experience and environment and emotions and intelligence, and trying to become grand master of the facets of humanity is foolish, and should only be attempted by indie romantic comedy directors and fourteen-year-olds. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop our quest to find a common ground with the people that we’re blessed to have in our lives. Facts are fucking great, and we need to discuss them and agree on them and argue about them until we’re all dead.
But just asking someone “Hey, teach me more about you,” aint so bad, either.