I listened to Arlie Hochschild interviewed on the Ezra Klein Show recently while snatching a few minutes of exercise trying to keep myself out of a slump of despair (it took me a few days to finish the interview that way; jury still out on whether this particular slump of despair is a safe distance away yet). The interview focused on her recent book, Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, for which she lived in Louisiana for five years, reaching out to Tea Party supporters and listening to what they had to say.
Her approach, she calls it “turning off my alarm system”, is to “take as my challenge and joy and task… to really stand in the shoes of this other person”. She focuses on trying to find what she calls the “deep story”, the story that “feels to be true”.
We all have a deep story, she says, and we can reach across divides by listening to them.
It's a big thing to ask. I know that as much as I truly want to understand the emotional currents driving the political decisions of people I know, it's hard for me to listen and respond in a way that feels constructive instead of feeling either like an attack (to them) or like seething silence (to me). Maybe I'd do better with people I didn't know.
Anyway, lucky for you, I’m not in the right frame of mind to try to explicate my own deep story today. I’m not even sure what it is and maybe that’s part of the point. It isn't the people being interviewed that say “this is my deep story,” it's Hochschild who pulls it out of the hours of interviews and holds it up to them to ask, “Does this feel true to you?”
What I'm offering instead are some podcast links, to some episodes that have meant so much to me, they must resonate with my deep story somehow:
Tribes and Traitors (29 min) (Hidden Brain ep. 24, 3/22/2016) I’ve noticed this dynamic lots of times. It feels especially common lately, whether the topic is terrorism or politics or race. And it dovetails nicely with a sub-theme of the Hochschild interview.
Our Politics, Our Parenting (23 min) (Hidden Brain ep. 44, 9/13/2016) The ending. Wait for it.
Terrorism (27 min) (Hidden Brain ep. 13, 12/15/2015) What I remember sticking out to me here was the idea that when it comes to destructive movements of all kinds, it is the leaders that are psychologically abnormal. The followers are pretty seriously normal.
Flip the Script (1 hr) (Invisibilia, 7/15/2016) Fascinating stories, well told. And goes well with both the Terrorism episode above and the Tribes and Traitors one.
I didn’t realize until I had this all typed up that most of those episodes are from Hidden Brain. It’s a good podcast. :)
I need to get back to exercising again, but I will admit watching the debate did help me feel somewhat better. If that feels true for you, too, you might enjoy the Hillary Shimmy Song by Jonathan Mann, just for fun.