Today is June 24, 2021.  We’re just in the first week of summer, and I already am sunburnt.  This weekend the temperature is expected to hit over 100° Fahrenheit.  Yes, here in the glorious Emerald City, in June.

Regardless, June is a great month for grilling (ok, maybe not this weekend).  One of my favorites is grilled peaches.  Find some freestone peaches, cut them in half and get rid of the pit, oil them a bit, and put them on a hot grill. I do cut side down first, then flip them over and move them off direct heat so juices can accumulate in the little well.  After they are nice and soft and smokey I let them cool down, slice them, and stir in some dessert wine vinegar or good balsamic.

Speaking of peaches.  Maybe about nine years ago one of my students in the six-week self-defense course came to class beaming.  She got to use some of what she learned.  She was grocery shopping in the early evening.  She was picking out some nice peaches, ripe ones, ready to eat.  As she contemplated her choices, she felt an odd sensation, like someone standing right behind her.  There was someone standing behind her.  She glanced over her shoulder, and described to us in the class a man, kind of tall and wide.  He was wearing a faded T shirt and sweatpants.  She thought he hadn’t bothered combing his hair before leaving his house.  The image of Jabba the Hut popped into my head.

She then took a look at the cart next to him.  What would Jabba the Hut eat?  Beer.  Pretzels.  Chips.  Beer.  Twinkies.  Did I say beer?

A little voice in her head whispered, “He’s not here for the peaches.”

My student said that before taking this class she would have made herself smaller, said in a soft yet high-pitched voice “oh, am I in your way, I’m so sorry!”  She would have slinked away, without ever having looked at his face.  She decided to do different.

She extended her elbows so they were sticking out to the sides.  Then she turned.  He was so close that one elbow got him in the ribs.  Not hard, but just enough to make him take a step back.  Then she looked him in the face and said, in a voice just loud enough for anyone in the produce section to hear, “Oh, you were standing so close!”

Did you notice what she did NOT say?  I’ll tell you at the end.*

She could tell he was angry.  And other people in the produce section were staring at them.  So he just glared, grabbed his cart, and huffed away.

Just about as soon as he left, she felt twinges of regret.  What if she was wrong?  What if he wasn’t simply trying to harass her?  She fretted as she continued shopping.

But just a few minutes later he was back.  He didn’t see her, but she sure noticed him.  And she saw him do the SAME THING to two other women.  One woman was selecting green beans, and the other strawberries.  Both of those women did what she said she would have done, made themselves smaller, apologized for taking up space in a public grocery store, and slinked away.  Did he then avail himself of the green beans and strawberries?  No.

By the time she found the store manager, it was too late.  He had checked out and gone.

She decided that she’s spend more time practicing with and trusting her instincts.

So she’d be better able to stay safe and live life.  You too can do that.

[*Oh, right, she did not say “sorry.”]

 

Today I’m talking about another book:  Outsmarting the Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout, PhD.  Dr. Stout is a clinical psychologist who was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and specializes in recovery from psychological trauma and PTSD.  I read one of her earlier books, The Sociopath Next Door, a number of years ago, and after reading James Fallon’s book decided it was time for an update.

Outsmarting the Sociopath Next DoorIn this book, Dr. Stout focuses on the very practical concerns of managing the effects on your well-being of those in your life, from whom you cannot just walk away, who lack a conscience and cannot form emotional bonds with others.  Whose mode of operation is treating life as a zero-sum game, where there are winners and losers and they are determined to be winners and rub in that you are the loser.  The three groups she looks at are 1. your own children, 2. people you have to work with, and 3. exes involved in child custody battles.  She offers very specific recommendations about how to structure your interactions with these individuals, once you recognize them for what they are.  

A big barrier is likely just recognizing someone as a sociopath, with its implications for how to work with them.  They won’t “get better” if only you were a better parent, better spouse, better employee.  That their behavior is not your fault, no matter how much blame they try to hand off to you.  That you have to pay attention to your own emotional welfare.

One phrase in this book that caught my attention is “closed system.”  In our self-defense classes I refer to this as “social isolation.”  You and the sociopath are in a relationship that may be covert, and you may be embarrassed or afraid or insecure and not talk about it. Or the relationship may be well-known, but what goes on behind closed doors is kept mum.  Dr. Stout points out (as do we in our classes), that violence thrives in silence, and she suggests that you find a person you trust, and who would be supportive, someone to confide in, who is also outside the social group you share with the sociopath.  So if the sociopath is a co-worker, talk with someone not at your workplace. 

Dr. Stout believes that with diligence, persistence, and planning, you can be outsmarting the sociopath next door.  Sociopaths, according to her, have a limited range of motivation and pretty much stick to their script.  Can you work around that, as they are trying to push your buttons for the reaction they want?

Dr. Stout also strongly suggests that when dealing with agencies such as law enforcement and the courts, you refrain from using the word sociopath (or psychopath, or any other clinical diagnostic labels) to describe that person.  That will not get you the support you’re seeking, and in fact may get YOU labeled as the trouble-maker.  How’s that?  Read the book.

And that’s all for today.  Be sure to check out the summer schedule for LIVE IN-PERSON classes.

Stay safe, live life.

Today is May 26, 2021. I have some decisions to make. Scheduling classes for the summer. Usually it’s not a big deal, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle putting together dates with class types, but this year I have to choose between running live in-person classes or sticking with virtual Zoom sessions. Do I require in-person class attendees to be vaccinated for COVID-19? To show proof, or trust they are truthful?

Do you trust yourself?

I read this book years ago, “Yes” or “No”: The Guide to Better Decisions by Spencer Johnson. Johnson is known for writing business self-help books that rely on allegories to convey their points. In this one he goes through a tale about a young man needing to make a decision and the advice he’s given by a mentoring group while on an extended hiking trip. We never find out what the issue or choices were, the whole point was the process of arriving at a decision via a series of six questions. The first three questions were in the rational realm, but the second three were more in the domain of the heart. One of those key questions to ask oneself is “does this decision show that I trust my instincts?”

Do you trust yourself?

Sure, all of us on occasion have misjudged situations, misread body language, acted on our prejudice and assumptions. But what happened afterwards? What did you find out? Did you find feedback to learn more about yourself? Were you honest with yourself?

Do you trust yourself?

Or, did someone subsequently try to shame you, or insist that your assessments are always wrong? Always would be wrong? With constant picking on your choice of clothing, restaurants, or movies. Disparaging comments about your family and friends? Expressions of contempt for your opinions on matters cultural or political?

Over a decade ago one student told me about her self-development strategy. She sold cherries in Pike Place Market over the summer, One student learned to "read" people when she sold cherries at the market, and learned to trust herself.when she was home from college. Now, who’s in Pike Place Market in the summer? A whole lotta tourists, who really don’t need cherries. They may need a snowglobe with the Space Needle, or a chocolate salmon, or a T-shirt that says “my parents went to Seattle and all I got was this T shirt.” But not cherries. So she came out from behind the stand to interact more with visitors. From that experience she learned to assess body language and attitudes, and more quickly figure out who may be a customer and who may be a creep.  (BTW, I also talked about this in my blog post 2 weeks ago.)

As I’ve noted several times, the great American sage Yogi Berra is said to have said, you can observe a lot just by watching.

She honed her sense of trusting herself.  You can, too.

Stay safe, live life.

Today is Wednesday May 19, 2021, and it’s a bit rainy. This past weekend, though, was sunny, a virtual mini-summer, so I got to hang out in my backyard, in my hammock, reading. This is the book, The Psychopath Inside by James Fallon. He’s a neuroscientist (and not to be confused with The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon)The Psychopath Inside.

Dr. Fallon studies brains. What makes them tick, or fail to tick correctly. What he’s most well-known for — in the eye of the general public — is his research on the brains of psychopaths. And, frankly, this research would not likely have caught the public eye except for one detail. Turns out, Dr. Fallon himself has the brain of a psychopath.

He found this out by accident. He was going through brain scans of his family, done to check for for a totally unrelated medical issue, when he saw this scan that looked just like it belonged in one of his other projects, the psychopath studies. He first thought that somehow the scans got mixed up and had his assistant check on it. But no, that was his. It came to find its way in the public eye because he brought it up in public venues, in his TED Talk in 2009, and his Moth Radio Hour story (recorded 2011, aired end of 2013). These attracted media attention and his story was repeated and amplified by media looking for intriguing stories, and he became the psychopath inside.

First, a bit on what makes a psychopath. Seems there is not a standard clinical definition, at least not as of the writing of this book in 2013.  Characteristic traits include:

  • emotional flatness and lack of empathy, lack of remorse, and refusal to accept responsibility for their actions
  • superficiality, grandiosity, and deceitfulness
  • impulsiveness and unreliability
  • antisocial behavior such as hotheadedness, physical violence, pleasure in harming others, and sometimes a criminal record

There is a fair bit of science in the book, and I’m unlikely to remember most of the details. More interesting is what those details mean, such as activity detected in the dorsal part, or upper third, of the brain is associated more with rational thought, and activity in the ventral part, or lower third, of the brain is connected more with emotional intelligence. Seems that psychopath brains have far less activity, if any, in the ventral portion, and that manifests as a lack of emotional connection with others.

Still more interesting is Dr. Fallon’s reflection on the meaning of his brain’s state. He looks back on a warm upbringing and a loving family, wonderful childhood, teenage stuff, party years of college (and beyond), his fun-loving adventures and pranks that were all in jest and hurt nobody because his fellow participants wanted to let loose, and boys will be boys, right? Now, if you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know what I think of the phrase “boys will be boys” — a poor excuse to get away with poor behavior.  Boys will be the boys we let them be, and the young James seems to have gotten away with a fair bit.

He didn’t identify himself as a psychopath for a while after his revealing brain scan, because according to him, he was missing some of the essential components of what he considered a true psychopath. He’s not physically violent. He doesn’t have a criminal record (which he mentions several times in the book), he doesn’t take pleasure in causing pain, and doesn’t try to cause pain (unless he’s out for revenge, which he notes briefly, towards the end, and gave no details). His writing oscillates between he’s just having fun and nobody got hurt, with thinking that maybe he hurt others and simply didn’t notice because it’s out of the realm of his personal experience due to his brain, or maybe at times he did hurt others but just didn’t care. That darned lack of empathy. Dr. Fallon goes back and forth, back and forth, about the impact of his actions. I don’t think he’s the right person to make that assessment, but as for others’ opinions, he probably does not care, as he states over and over and over again in this book.  Which is what makes him the “psychopath inside.”

So how did family, friends, and colleagues relate to him after the publicity of his brain state? Well, he said a couple of “close” friends chose to limit or eliminate contact with him. Most already had him figured out, so nothing changed. And a small crowd actually wanted to spend more time with him. So next time you hear about those targeted and victimized by good boys (who went a little too far) get shoved to the side, especially if the perpetrator is relatively well-liked by others (even if they know what he’s about), wonder why no more.  That’s the psychopath inside.

The book is an interesting read, even though Dr. Fallon is not a particularly artful writer, and his final chapter about why psychopaths are essential to a healthy society is verging on self-serving, in my opinion. If you personally have ever been in a relationship with a psychopath, sociopath, narcissist, or someone of that ilk, this book may bring back memories you may not relish reviewing, and in some cases could be triggering. Read at your own risk. Or read a book by Dr. Robert Hare instead.

Stay safe, live life.

About six weeks ago I wrote about this confusion around fixing boundary violations, that somehow many people have this nagging doubt, this feeling that it’s rude or impolite, even though they want to and know they’d be happier and in a better state of mind if they did. And I’m going to talk about it again, because there was this “ripped from the headlines” moment earlier this month, that seems to have dropped off the front page, but don’t worry, it’ll be back.

You may have heard that Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is said to have shown colleagues photos on his phone of nude women and bragged about his sexual exploits. But we’re not going to focus on Representative Gaetz at this moment, because this is a personal safety channel about our lives. What if, instead of this being someone far away in a different circle, this was in your workplace? Perhaps a co-worker, a colleague, an intern, or a supervisor thought nothing of showing off nude photos of their sex partners? Would you be elbowing others aside to get a better look? Would you be wanting to throw a party just to invite that person, so others would think that you too were one of the cool kids?  If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing not. Would you be uncomfortable? Would you be more uncomfortable speaking up, or staying silent? A trade-off of discomfort in the moment of speaking up, versus the long-term discomfort of feeling that you missed that an important moment.

See, this generally doesn’t come out of the blue. Other boundaries would have been crossed before, but didn’t seem important enough to risk embarrassing someone. Maybe now you’d be regretting those, too.

Most people think of bystander intervention as breaking up a fight, getting between people who are about to grab and hit and kick each other, or at least one is looking to physically obliterate the other. So they miss other, smaller opportunities. Other littler boundary pokes, where the poker is testing what they can get away with. And if they can get away with the littler stuff, well, as the great American philosopher Bruce Springsteen sang, “from small things mama, big things one day come.”

[“Bystander intervention” and “setting boundaries” have a lot of overlap.  Setting boundaries usually refers to action you take for yourself, while bystander intervention is more likely to refer to helping someone else maintain their boundaries.]

So let’s get back to your workplace. What to do? What to say? I dunno. Fixing boundary violations depends on the relationship you have with that offender, other colleagues, etc. I do suggest you lay out a plan. Get some paper and a pen, and start writing possible responses. What do you want to express? Disgust? Disappointment? Dismay? Do you want to throw in some humor? Think of several responses, work them a bit, grade them on level of aggression, run them by some trusted friends. Consider possible outcomes — what result do you want to see? Here’s a couple:

  • Uh, TMI!!!
  • Why are you showing that to me?
  • Are you OK? Showing this is repugnant, and I’ve always expected better from you.
  • Wow, are you sure you want to be broadcasting how shallow a person you really are?
  • I always thought you were a jerk, I hadn’t realized you’re also a pervert.
  • Put that away, and do not ever show me your pornography again.
  • Your sharing these images makes me sad, because I expect my (friends / colleagues / elected officials) to have more regard and respect for other people and not objectify them as personal toys. Please put that away, and don’t show them to me, or anyone, ever.

One approach is pure shaming. Another is a classic confrontation strategy: tell the person what behavior is wrong, maybe include how you feel about it, and what they should do to fix it. And a third leans more towards Marshall Rosenberg’s “Non-Violent (or Compassionate) Communication,” where you state observations, how you feel, what you need, and make a request to remedy it.

Now it’s your turn. Write stuff, and read it back out loud.  [Hint:  the reading it back out loud part is CRITICAL.]  Fixing boundary violations takes a little effort, and it can pay off big time in your peace of mind.

Stay safe, and live life.

PS – while Springsteen wrote the song, I prefer Dave Edmunds’ version.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!  Although today is Thursday, April 22, 2021, I’m not here to talk about Earth Day. But a good discussion moment came up in social media, about media literacy and how to recognize social media hoaxes.

You may have seen social media postings about April 24. About an alleged group of six men who are said to have declared — via a TikTok video — April 24 as National Rape Day, suggesting that men go out and sexually assault women, and it would be legal.

Others on social media have been sounding the alarm. Stay at home, carry a weapon, be on high alert, etc. Except, where’s the alleged video? One TikTok account claims to have seen it, and claims to be spreading the word because most of her followers are women and they should be aware of it. Others have picked up on that warning. But I don’t know of many, or even any other accounts claiming to have seen the alleged original video.

And TikTok cannot find the offending video, on their own platform.

If I were a gambling type of gal, I’d be betting this is a hoax. That this “news” is a troll or two whose goal is to generate attention, spread fear, and kick back laughing as they watch responses roll in. Said trolls could be the purported group of six, or it could be the account that issued the warning about a non-existent Group of Six.

I personally do not plan on taking precautions other than what I would normally. Remember, an average of about 1,200 persons are sexually assaulted each day in the United States. The alleged “advice” we are hearing from those spreading the April 24 hoax is to stay safe by staying at home. I call BS. Most women are raped in someone’s home. By people they know.

recognize social media hoaxes

Wouldn’t it be nice if recognizing social media hoaxes were this easy?

This is a good example of why we — and I mean “we” as individual media consumers, and that probably includes you on occasion — why we need to practice better media literacy and critical thinking (yes, we do cover that in our self-defense classes).  Why we need to more surely recognize social media hoaxes.  This has the markings of a hoax. It pushes a hot-button issue with a claim of imminent outrageous action. It has a built-in audience, and will attract a sizable readership, especially on social media. And there’s no real evidence. Before spreading crap, please do some homework if you have ANY doubts. Click the links, all of them. No links? That’s a red flag. Google all the names. Reverse image search all images. Run a Whois on domain names. Or if you don’t want to do all that, at the very least find a reliable fact-checking site, maybe Snopes.com. I am not on TikTok, but if I were, I’d be checking into the reliability of those spreading this. Please do not empower trolls by spreading their misinformation — it sucks up your time and energy needlessly, and it sucks up the time and energy of others with whom you share, that can be put to much better use. And it contributes to a social environment where most people consider the world a suckier place then it really is.

Stay safe, and live life!

The final day in March, 2021, is another nice, sunny day in the glorious Emerald City. I love sunshine. Rain and darkness certainly have their essential restorative qualities, and inspire me to appreciate the contrasting clarity and brightness of daylight even more. And, on a more metaphorical level, yes of course it connects with self-defense, this IS a self-defense page, of course I’m going to talk about self-defense. To daylight something is to bring it to awareness, to attention. Usually that something is that which many people would rather ignore, like the elephant in the room.

This is coming up, again, in the wake of a slew of assaults committed against persons of Asian descent living in America. Yes, this America, land of the free and home of the brave. I’ve been reading that many of those targeted are reluctant to come forward, to report the assaults. To possibly bring further unwanted attention to themselves. There’s a hope that if nobody talks about the elephant, the elephant will go back to sleep in its corner (until the next time).

Of all the people in the metaphorical room, some may ignore the elephant because they’re unaware of the presence of the elephant because they personally are not impacted. Others because not only are they personally not affected, they are also choosing not to pay attention because it’s not important to them. And some because not only are they not personally impacted, they don’t think it’s a serious or even a real impact for anyone.

If a person not personally affected by the elephant can successfully ignore that elephant, they have some power (the word privilege can also used here) whether they want to acknowledge it or not. If they can define another person’s concerns as insignificant, well that’s more power. If a person can successfully silence those voicing concerns about that elephant, they have real power and privilege.elephant in the room

To ignore the elephant when you are profoundly impacted, isn’t that fear of someone else’s power. Fear of retaliation, of consequences for inconveniencing someone more privileged who doesn’t want to deal with your elephant.  There are many situations where using one’s voice at that instant is the best tool, but others where timing is also important.

Seattle-based author and activist Ijeoma Oluo wrote this article about living in fear and living anyways, about silence not helping her. Even though the article is almost two years old, it reads as relevant today as it did then. She also talks about the love and support she’s received from her communities to get her through the hate and death threats.

A significant reason many others don’t speak up is they feel they do NOT have that kind of support. And the burden to speak up should not fall solely with the victim, especially as we know they could be opening themselves to further threats and danger. Because they are not the problem. The problem lies with those committing violence and as well as with people who enable them directly, and indirectly encourage conditions that promote violence.

And violence thrives in silence.

Those of us who see the elephant but are not directly impacted also need to speak up for what is right and provide support.

Not sure where to begin?  Try one of these Bystander/Upstander Intervention Trainings.

STAY SAFE, LIVE LIFE

Do you feel dismayed but helpless, again, in the face of yet another senseless act of violence?

Like many other Americans, I was dismayed to hear of the murders last week (Tuesday, March 16, 2021) in Atlanta of 8 people, mostly women of Asian descent. Dismayed, but sadly not really surprised. I was again dismayed, and not really surprised, at the subsequent discourse, if these homicides really fall into the category of hate crime.

A hate crime is broadly and ofttimes vaguely described as a criminal act, with the addition of being motivated at least in part by the victims’ perceived race, religion, ethnicity, gender expression, national origin, etc. There are federal hate crime laws, as well as hate crime laws in 47 states. These would be added on to underlying criminal charges. First, though, they would need to be identified as hate crimes by law enforcement and prosecutors. You can read a bit more in this article, and why it’s application and enforcement became problematic.

We emPowerment self-defense teachers often talk about the “red flags,” about paying attention to a person’s actions. Back to Atlanta earlier this week. The murderer bought a gun that day. He then went to one spa and murdered people. And, rather than leaving and walking to the next doorway, to some other business, to continue his shooting spree, he got into his car and drove to the next target, another spa. And then to a third. These businesses were targeted. All spas, connected to Asian women. This looks pretty deliberate, and not like someone who is just “fed up” or “having a bad day,” as one law enforcement officer tried to explain the murderer’s actions. I’ve had bad days too, gotten “fed up” with circumstances — I bet you have too — and yet somehow I’ve managed to figure out how to get through those times without committing homicide (I bet you have too).

And it is past frustrating when those who have authority to wield power to name an action — “is it REALLY a hate crime?” — drag their feet on what seems to be obvious.

Which is a significant part of the issue. A few months ago I blogged (and FB Lived, and made a video) about Homeroom, a restaurant in Oakland that turned processing sexual harassment claims around. Rather than the waitstaff telling the manager that a customer was harassing them and the manager deciding if it was really harassment and what, if anything to do about it, the waitstaff themselves now determined the level of harassment and the manager then had a clear prescribed  course of action. See below for links to the media.

When those who have been victimized have little to no say in defining their reality, in labeling what they lived (or not) through, they are disempowered. Invisible. Out of sight, out of mind? So that we more privileged people can get on with our lives without too much discomfort?

It may seem that quibbling over a label is a distraction from the real story, which is that 8 people were murdered in another senseless act of violence. Those labels do matter, they do contribute to whether or not we recognize our history of violence, and how much we acknowledge that systemic ignorance needs to be daylighted. We can’t change history, but we can learn from it so we can change the course of our future.

What can we do? Support our Asian friends and colleagues publicly; listen to them and work to imagine their perspective. Learn some bystander intervention skills. And let our public servants know that this misuse of power is not acceptable.

I can whole-heartedly recommend these sources for online bystander/upstander intervention training:

• Hollaback!: https://www.ihollaback.org/harassmenttraining/
• Center for Anti-Violence Education: https://www.caeny.org/upstander
• Defend Yourself: https://defendyourself.org/bystander-intervention/

Violence thrives in silence.

Speak up, and live life.

 

Media about Homeroom (the restaurant):

• Blog: https://www.strategicliving.org/creating-support-and-safer-spaces/
• FB Live: https://www.facebook.com/98483803840/videos/218376709673444
• Vimeo or YouTube: https://vimeo.com/487661680  or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCwGDdXlEmo

The object of safety planning is safety, yes.  And, for most efficacy, put some effort into planning.  Someone acts, you respond, what’s next?

Over the last few months I’ve talked a lot about setting boundaries. Most of the time is it successful, in large part because most peoples’ intent are pretty good.  Also in part because most perpetrators want easy targets — they don’t want to have to work hard.

However, sometime there may be repercussions or consequences. This can happen where there’s a difference in power, where there’s an employer/employee relationship, or coach/athlete relationship, or teacher/student relationship. It can also happen when peers are involved.  Part of making your personal safety planning effective is in plotting out those “what’s next” possibilities.

Consider the other person’s possible responses when you set a boundary, and plan your responses to them. Assess the probabilities of each of the possible responses. This should be based on your past experiences with that person. If you set boundaries, could your boss deny a promotion or raise, or demote you, or fire you? Can a coworker or classmate begin a round of gossip, or even try to sabotage some of your work? Can a coach limit your play time, or even cut you from the team?  Will that person get a bit huffy, stomp away, and then nothing else happens?  Or will they just say “OK,” and it’s all good?

Assess the people around — are they likely to be allies or detractors? Is it safe for you to talk to some of them beforehand?

And, if necessary, do you have an exit strategy?

Watch the Netflix documentary Athlete A for some good examples of choices around boundaries.  I wrote about that a few weeks ago.

And even if you’re not liking some possible outcomes of setting boundaries, think of the results of NOT setting boundaries. Which consequences would you rather live with?

Today is Thursday, January 14, of the year 2021.  Next week Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as President of the United States, in a ceremony that threatens to be quite memorable. I generally don’t get very political in these posts.  Issues and principles, yes. Today is an exception; we are living through interesting times.

Thanks to last week’s events, some starkly clear lines are truly impossible to ignore.  [If you are reading this way in the future, just look up the events leading to President Trump’s second impeachment.]  Last week the Capitol Building in Washington, DC was over-run by a large group of Trump supporters in town to attend a rally.  At this rally, the outgoing President of the United States said some things that incited them to then march to the Capitol Building, break in, and cause damage to people and property.  Among the unruly masses seem to have been some more focused individuals, who had goals of finding specific elected officials, restraining them, possibly physically harming them. In addition, it seems that some individuals who swore to uphold the law instead forwent their oath and enabled the mob. This is not the rule of law.  This is not democracy.

Why am I bringing this up, why is this important for your personal safety? (Yes, sooner or later this does get back to personal safety.) I’ll bet you can answer that question. Your personal safety is only as secure as your ability to rely on social institutions for justice and redress. Frankly, that’s been on shaky ground anyways for a long while. However, the last 4 years have exacerbated and highlighted inequities.

What makes this especially relevant are not just those who incite sedition or commit insurrection. They are the tip of the iceberg, the most visible element and that which gets most attention. But there are also the enablers. Those who create and echo lies, engage in the gaslighting, mislead others, often for their own profit. Those who denigrate facts for their own benefit, and to the detriment of others.  I’ve written before about enablers (most recently about the documentary Athlete A), and why more people don’t report crimes committed against them.  To repeat:  It’s not just the perpetrators, though they are a critical ingredient.  It’s also those who support perpetrators.  Those who engage in distraction, gaslighting, and threats to intimidate those targeted and garner support from bystanders.    Not just the Trumps, but the Giulianis, Alex Joneses, and Steve Bannons, who stand to gain from their support but at the expense of others.

Stay tuned for more living through interesting times.