This is another episode of “What’s Going On?” I’m just going to give you some odds and ends about what is going on in my life. It will read somewhat like the old Evans and Novak columns, in which one article can cover three or four topics.
How Much Should I Talk?
I have another Michael John Carley quote from his book, Asperger’s from the Inside Out. This will probably be the last Carley quote that I post, since he most likely wants people to buy his book, not read it for free on James’ Thoughts and Musings. Here it is:
“[T]alk for 50 percent of the time in a two-person conversation, 33 percent for a three-way, 10 percent if the other person needs to get something off his chest, and so on” (102).
I struggle over this issue. I don’t necessarily look at the above as absolute, iron-clad rules, but perhaps they can be useful to me as guidelines. I guess where they are helpful is that they can give me guidance on when I may be talking too little or too much, primarily in group settings. For example, at one GRASP meeting that I attended, we had a session on social skills. Basically, we were put into small groups, and we had to talk informally with one another. Then, we talked as a larger group about what each person did right and wrong. I personally did not like this social skills exercise, and, as far as I know, GRASP doesn’t do it anymore.
But, in any case, my problem was that I did not assertively jump into the conversation. I spoke softly, and I didn’t interject all that often. I just did not know what to say. And, as a result, I kind of faded into the background. I was ignored. (Looking back, I also didn’t introduce myself to people who joined my small group. Even without knowing what to say in the conversation itself, I probably would have been more of a presence in the group if I had simply introduced myself. And maybe that would’ve given me the confidence to say more).
Well, the lesson I took away from that exercise was that I needed to assert myself more in conversations. And, so, a few years later, when I had to spend a long period of time with another group, I just talked and talked and talked. I felt I had to keep on talking. I didn’t want to fade into the background! And I was getting on other people’s nerves.
And so Carley’s quote may give me guidelines on how much to contribute in a group conversation. Of course, I don’t know exactly when I have spoken 33 percent of the time, and I can’t pull out a calculator right there and then to find out. But I can hopefully use my own judgment as to whether or not I’m talking too much (or not enough) and allowing others to contribute.
As far as one-on-one conversations go, I’m not going to be overly rigid on these rules, at least not right now. I’ve had good conversations in which the other person has talked more than I have, and I don’t feel compelled to come up with gobs of things to say in every one-on-one encounter. I’ll just ask the person questions to display interest in what he or she is saying, and, if I feel strongly enough to say something (as I did with that Muslim I met yesterday), then I will say it.
Obama Supporter Speaks Republicanese.
I went to an AA meeting this morning, and in walked a 60-ish African-American woman with an “Obama for President” T-shirt. When she gave her testimony, however, she sounded like a Republican. She told us that, in her early days in recovery, she thought that her fellow AA members were only putting on a show. When she saw their new cars, she assumed that they were dealing drugs. How else could they get that kind of money? But they weren’t dealing. They were getting their lives on track, becoming responsible, and experiencing the blessings of their diligence.
And she talked about how that was true in her own life, for she was paying her bills and her high rent, things that she neglected before her sobriety. So why did this sound so Republican? Maybe because she was saying that individuals are in charge of their own economic destiny. She didn’t act as if being black condemns a person to a lifetime of poverty and hopelessness, for he maintained that personal responsibility can bring about economic prosperity, regardless of who you are.
What she said reminded me of a story I read a long time ago in Insight Magazine, back when it was a legitimate news source. In impoverished Latin American countries, people who convert to Pentecostalism are becoming upwardly mobile, economically-speaking. Like the recovering alcoholics, they are practicing the principles of hard work, thrift, responsibility, patience, helping one another, and dependence on God, and they are experiencing economic blessings as a result.
So why’s this woman for Obama? She might feel that the government should at least help people out as they try to become upwardly mobile. When I was on the bus last week, a few middle-aged women and a hippie-like college student were complaining about the Republicans. “They want the poor to stay poor,” one of them said. “They don’t even support raising the minimum wage, and they hate unions.” And so people like that woman at the AA meeting may support hard work and responsibility, while at the same time feeling that poor people need something to be responsible with, such as good wages. Personally, I disagree with that, since hiking the minimum wage can lead to an increase in prices. But it’s still something to think about.
A Touched by an Angel I Had Not Seen.
Yesterday, I saw an episode of Touched by an Angel that I had never seen before. That’s pretty surprising, for I assumed that I had seen them all. It was about a rich landlord who was sentenced to house arrest in one of his dilapidated apartments, which was in an African-American neighborhood. And he was Jewish, which struck me as rather odd. Ordinarily, the show portrays minorities in a positive light.
It wasn’t that the episode was anti-Jewish. The landlord’s late father, after all, was a devout man who continually helped his African-American neighbors. In a touching scene near the end of the show, the landlord was weeping over his son, who had just been shot in a drive-by shooting. There was no time to get him to the hospital. Monica then asked the landlord, “If your father was in this situation, do you think that his neighbors would have hesitated to help him out? You are reaping what you have sown.” But the end of the show was not that harsh, for God healed the landlord’s son, after he (the landlord) had reconnected with his Jewish heritage.
What particularly struck me was the show’s portrayal of the tension between Jews and African-Americans. When the landlord is being sentenced in the courtroom, he reminisces about the time when the neighborhood was actually good (in his opinion). His African-American tenants sarcastically reply, “Yeah, you mean Jewish!” In a flashback about when the landlord was a kid, the landlord comes home all bruised up. He had just gotten into a fight with African-American kids who called him a “kike.”
The show was trying to reconcile the two communities through an appeal to the Exodus tradition. The landlord’s father said that Jews and African-Americans were brothers, since both drew on the same Exodus tradition of liberation. (Professor Jon Levenson would probably disagree, for he emphasizes the nationalistic nature of the Exodus tradition. For him, the Exodus is more about God’s covenant with Abraham than the liberation of the oppressed.) As the landlord reconciles with his Jewish past, he sings “Eliyahu Ha-Navi,” a song of the seder, while Tess sings the old African-American spiritual, “Let my people go.”
I wonder why there is prejudice within the African-American community against Jews. I can wag my finger at Jesse Jackson for his “Hymie-town” comment, and I can excoriate Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. But their anger comes from somewhere. I remember hearing a story about a Jewish person who accidentally ran over an African-American child, and that provoked a riot! Are there Jews who take away African-American business, and that makes the black community mad? Or are the Jews simply a convenient scapegoat? In Japan, for example, there really aren’t that many Jews, yet anti-Semitism still manages to exist there.