I was headed to the library today anyway, but then I glanced at Facebook and noticed that it was Tuesday, and thus time for Seattle Invisible‘s Resist Trump rally at the Federal Building. It took me about half an hour to walk there — Second Avenue is the locus of a lot of construction these days, and I had repeatedly to cross from the west to the east side of the street and back. I didn’t miss anything, though, because the start time was actually noon, and not 11:45 as suggested.
Local entertainer Tae Phoenix had organized a program around the subject of mental health. This left room for several topics, including the impact of the Affordable Care Act on treatment availability and outcomes, the nation’s general state of mind, and communication strategies among those who may see themselves as opponents.
The rally was opened and closed by award-winning busker Carly Calbero, playing guitar and singing. The featured speaker was U.W. psychologist Ricardo Hidalgo, who said that today many people live not simply in fear, but in the fear of fear. The fear of foreigners, of economic loss, of change, aren’t simply outgrowths of current events, they are tools used for managing behavior.
Part way through the gathering a passerby came to stand beside me and I described briefly to her what was going on. She said that she didn’t think that protesting by itself was going to do much good. Another attendee took her aside and spoke to her more privately, and I didn’t see her again. But as a matter of fact I believe that Hidalgo shared a lot of practical information. Some of the questions to him were about dealing with disagreement — from the aggressive kind, like the obscene gestures and outright threats that some of us have seen at demonstrations, to the icy refusal of the Thanksgiving guest to converse rationally. Here are some hints:
Sometimes a person lets us know, if only by body language, that he or she does not want to listen to what we have to say. There is no way at that time to get a message heard. A situation may become so difficult that we simply do not know what to say, and that is another time not to say anything.
When words are exchanged, and when they may become heated, it is always most important to de-escalate the conflict. Other people are as confident of their sources as we are of ours, and may see our beliefs or actions as threats. The message to convey, the one that removes fear, is this one: “I will not hurt you. I will not allow you to hurt me, or my brothers or sisters, or our beautiful planet.” Vulnerability is not the same as passivity.
Success at these techniques may be a process rather than an event. Hidalgo recommends deliberately cleansing the mind at least twice a day; and mostly, acting only from the position of love and intelligence.
At the end, before Calbero sang again, we practiced our new mantra: “”I will not hurt you. I will not allow you to hurt me . . . ”
— Scott C. McKee, August 8, 2017