Don’t Call Me…

For most of my life, I have enjoyed talking.  I have even been known for enjoying talking.  In kindergarten, I was selected by my teacher as our student council representative because I would talk in a room full of people, (and kindergarteners can’t comprehend the process of voting). In that same elementary school, I wrote and delivered a speech to the graduating class (6th grade) from the 5th grade.  That speech is still delivered at my elementary school.  

I loved talking to my parents when I was a kid.  They always seemed like a bottomless well of information.  I enjoyed listening to and watching my parents and aunts and uncles as they spoke.  They had a fascinating complexity to how they communicated things.  Some messages had lots of expression, and interesting, unusual words and phrases.  Some had minimal expression and coded words and phrases.  Often I could tell that something was being communicated, but had no idea what exactly.  

My freshman year in college, sometimes friends and I would sit up all night talking about various things.  We would also watch and listen to the speakers on the Oval in the center of campus giving speeches on all sorts of things.  Those were often interactive.  Students would ask questions, or debate the speakers on a variety of issues.  One old speaker would berate the students about their morals.  He was some sort of fundamentalist evangelical, and would call the students “fornicators and masturbators.”  This was always a highlight of the day.  He was quite serious, and the students surrounding him found it quite hilarious.  

I have enjoyed finding agreement among friends and strangers, and I have enjoyed disagreements.  Sometimes I learned a new perspective, and other times I learned how flawed perspectives were constructed.  I always found both experiences fascinating.  I have had jobs that required a great deal of speaking, and how well I did my job could often depend on how effective I was at communicating.  Sometimes it even came down to a safety issue.  I have always had a great comfort with talking, speaking, and listening.  I recall even working in a office when one colleague brought his daughter in who had just gotten into West Point.  When he introduced me, he said, “be careful with Bill.  He will listen to every word you say, and then probably ask you some detail about it.”  I did not know that about myself until I heard my colleague say it.

Two things relatively recently have made me feel different about talking.  My feeling about talking had gone relatively unchanged since kindergarten, but the advent of smartphones made me like talking less.  Now, if it is through a device, I would almost prefer text.  I don’t particularly like FaceTime either.  It seems like more of a distraction than what had previously seemed like easy communication.  

The second thing is the real point of this post.  The category is a bit specific.  That category is people with whom I had a previous relationship, who ultimately became Trump supporters.  I simply can’t stand talking to these people on the phone.  I don’t understand why they want to speak to me, and some I have known for decades.  If I have to speak with them, I would much prefer to speak to them in person.  I don’t have the slightest inkling as to why this is, and I understand that some may feel exactly the opposite.  Some may consider it easier to speak through a device when it comes to speaking with someone that you’d prefer not to speak with.  What I simply do not understand about myself is, I feel exactly the opposite.  I would rather have the difficult conversation face to face.  Frankly, it does not even have to be about the difficult subject.  It can be about anything but that which we disagree, and I would still prefer to converse with that person face to face.  

I don’t answer calls from those that I know to be Trumpers.  I apologize.  I know full well that it is rude.  I just don’t.  It gets worse.  I don’t return those calls.  Sorry about that.  It bugs me somewhat that I can’t.  I don’t really understand it, but I can’t fathom why someone who supports a modern day fascist wants to speak with me.  I don’t understand why they think I would speak with them.  If they spoke with me in person, they would have no difficulty communicating with me.  I don’t even have any reticence about making my views plain face to face.  I have done so in more direct terms than I have expressed in writing here.  I just don’t want to do that on the telephone, and I have no clue as to why.  

There is a scene from a 1997 film, “Life is Beautiful”, that I think of when I think of the Trumpers with whom I am associated.  The film is about the life and death of an Italian Jewish man who is sent to a concentration camp during WWII, and does not make it out alive.  The main character plays a waiter/husband/father, with an irrepressible character.  His upbeat, positive personality stand in stark contrast to the dark, threatening rise of authoritarianism in Europe of the 1930s.  At one point, the main character comes to a stark realization about what he is dealing with as he speaks to this Nazi uniformed doctor.  The doctor is addicted to solving riddles and puzzles, and the waiter is skilled in solving them.  The waiter and the doctor have a sort of friendship, and the waiter thinks of this as one would about any reciprocal friendship.  As the grip of Nazi evil is coming down onto the waiter and his family, the waiter seeks the help of this Nazi doctor/officer for his family.  All at once, the waiter realizes that he and the doctor were never friends.  The doctor has no use for him, sees no value in him except to solve these puzzles.  Otherwise, he couldn’t care less about what happens to the waiter or his family.  

Whether right or wrong, this is exactly how I feel about speaking with Trumpers that I knew prior to Trump’s presidency.  You may feel that this is overstating Trump malice potential.  Fair enough.  However, the way I see it is, we will only know for certain once it is too late.  I am not willing to mingle with it while that is determined more accurately.  I am fully comfortable with the notion that the fault may be mine.  That is why those calls don’t get returned.  

I wish they could understand that.