This week President Obama gave a speech on gun safety. His tears were the most talked about part of the speech.
I was struck by people who saw a fake performance in those tears.
I spent some time trying to understand how people saw a fake performance when I saw genuine emotion. I think there are cognitive explanations like bias and prejudice that make sense to me in understanding different interpretations of the tears. But, I couldn’t shake the idea that those tears were in the context of talking about murdered children in a room full of their parents. Why in this context would someone be so actively opposed to seeing and interpreting emotion as genuine?
I turned to the writing that I think I referenced last week in class: I don’t want to know what I know by Peter Rollins. In this short blog piece, he works to explain the idea of resistance.
…after the Second World War many civilians in Germany said that they did not know what was happening to their Jewish neighbours. This is no doubt true in the sense that they would not have known the full facts. However there were enough hints around to point to the reality that people actively tried to avoid finding out what was happening for fear that they would then need to act. Something most of us would have done if we had been there (because it is what most of us do today concerning all kinds of injustice).
So the issue here is not that we fail to know something, but rather that we don’t want to know that we know. For when we know that we know then we are forced to change our behaviour, offer embarrassing counter-arguments that make it obvious we don’t really care or simply admit our lack of concern (which is at least to be respected more than pretending that we do care).
It has me thinking about resistance–about actively avoiding knowing what we know so we won’t have to take that knowledge into ourselves and change ourselves. And I’m also thinking about resistance as it relates to emotion–actively avoiding the pain of others, avoiding empathy and sympathy and compassion because those require transformation and action.
I don’t know if resistance is why people are seeing fake tears.
What do you think?
One thing I do know is that I can’t spend my time looking for resistance in others if I’m not willing to look for it in myself.
While resistance, with a little training, can be easy to spot in other people, it is more difficult when it comes to ourselves. However, when confronted with something that challenges us we must be sensitive to our own reactions, working out whether we experience emotional resistance and, if so, what it is we are hiding from ourselves.
Where is resistance in your life? Theology? Scripture? Social issues? Environmental issues? Justice issues? Consumption? Inequality?
See you tomorrow.