I just had one of those frustrating conversations with an acquaintance of mine who blew in here to ask if he could borrow my handtruck to help a mutual friend move. I had been trying to think of something to say in this space today, but I had left the TV on in the other room and he, noticing a story, started railing about "journalism today."
"Manti Teo," he said. "Who cares?" I said. "But don't you see that they are just filling time with the topic of the day?" he said. "Of course," I said. "That's what they do."
He told me that "the system is broken."
I said something like "when was it ever not?"
"I want to fix it," he said.
"You can't," I said.
Things went downhill from there. The bottom line was that I didn't want to have this conversation right now. The topic was too broad. I didn't have time for a half-hour conversation about anything. Take the hand truck and go, was my basic prescription. He didn't want to let go.
The conversation went immediately to shouting and accusations. I told him that I wasn't interested in the conversation and to please just go away. He told me that I thought I was so high and mighty and that I could just sit there and pass judgment on other people. I tried to tell him that this wasn't about judgment, it was simply that I wasn't interested in talking about this with him.
From where I sat, I had a choice between having a long, boring conversation wherein we both agreed that journalism was broken, or one in which I would have to come up with examples that proved that it wasn't entirely so. Followed by a conversation in which we each suggested ways in which it could be "fixed." And since I have no idea about how anything except maybe small household mishaps, and even those only temporarily, can be "fixed," that would be another conversation in which I would be stuck for meaningful input. In the meantime, tick tock, tick tock.
When he finally left the house (with the hand truck), I came back to this spot and saw, written in the Title line of this post, the word "Miscommunication."
I had been thinking along the lines of the Republican Party's (I assume politically motivated) misunderstanding of the phrase "You didn't build that" and claims that Senator Chuck Hagel's views on American support of Israel constitute antisemitism. And here the problem was brought home to me in a very concrete way.
I've had problems communicating with this guy before. He usually shows up wanting to talk about something he saw in the paper or on TV that really gets his goat, so to speak, and I am never in the mood to talk about it. Not on his terms, anyway. He's one of those people (once pretty much Republican, but not anymore) to whom I have the knee-jerk reaction to oppose. Kinda like vegetarians who nearly always make me hungry for cheeseburgers. I don't say I'm proud of this. I do say that it nearly always happens that no matter how much I don't want to stoop to insults ("You just aren't interesting to me"), I nearly always descend.
It's a character flaw. I'll be 70 in two weeks. Can't really see it disappearing any time soon.
So it's something to keep in mind, when we try to understand why "those people" just don't get it. The better angels of my nature wrote on this very topic about a year ago. But too often the guy on the other shoulder gets the better of me. I wish I was the calm, wise and understanding person I admire so much. The fact is, I'm much better in print.