What to Do When Shushed
I got shushed on Facebook recently. It was after I posted about the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Still raw from Trump’s win, I couldn’t resist voicing my fear that we were heading back to those times. A mom I’d met for one afternoon two years ago, while visiting friends in another state, commented, telling me I needed to have more faith in our fellow man and not panic.
I did not take this in stride. I got angry; though I did respond civilly. I simply stated, “I’m Jewish”, linked to a few studies documenting the recent rise in anti-Semitism and explained while not “panicking”, I choose not to live with my head in the sand. She responded with what was intended as friendly camaraderie that “anti-religion in general is on the rise”. That set me off. This woman was so acculturated in white, middle-class, Christian America that she couldn’t fathom how I could feel on edge. And further, she couldn’t just observe my viewpoint. She felt an urge to tamp me down. Something about my stated concern was so upsetting that it became necessary for her to tell me—someone she had spent less than three hours in the presence of—to calm down.
Free-falling down the comment hole of Facebook, my agitation grew and I felt compelled to justify my initial concern to this woman. I explained that anti-Semitism is less about religion and more about blood lines. Many Jews don’t practice the religion, yet they embrace their culture. That’s what defines them as Jews and what makes them a target. I went so far as to appeal to her as a mother. I explained, that as mom of two Jewish boys—one a dishwater blond with blue eyes and the other a dark-haired, brown-eyed imp who looks just like his Ashkenazi dad—I worry much more about my dark-haired boy being a target of anti-Semitism. In the heat of the moment, I felt like I needed her to understand. More than anything, I wanted her to take back her accusation of panic.
That didn’t happen. She responded with a, “That’s really interesting!” and wished me well. While she went on about her day with a cheerful exclamation point, I was left in a dark mood. I felt so dismissed. That’s the natural inclination when we’re shushed—to feel dismissed and disgruntled and then carry it around with us for an hour, or a day or for who knows how long. This incident was three months ago and I still get irked when I see this woman interact on my Facebook feed.
I've run the interaction over and over in my head, trying to come up with a different strategy that would have led to a different outcome. I go back and forth. What if I hadn't responded to her comment at all? What if I'd have been less accommodating to her criticism? What if I just unfriended her after our back and forth? Would any of those tactics have changed the outcome? Would a changed outcome have made me feel better? Doubtful. Being shushed just rankles and hurts, period.
Then I read about Senator Warren’s very public shushing by Senator McConnell earlier this week. Her response, and the outcome, was terrific. She refused to be quieted and delivered her intended message on Facebook, reaching exponentially more people than if the Republicans let her have her say on C-Span to begin with. She didn’t walk around with a cloud over her head, miffed. Instead, she modeled the perfect response. Her persistence garnered her, and all of us in her court, much needed support. Those of us who disagree with the Trump agenda better get used to being shushed. Let’s thank our lucky stars that Senator Warren’s actions elicited our new rallying cry: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”