We currently live in a world where conflict and misunderstanding has become … strange.
A world where disagreement isn’t just from simple ignorance. A world where arguments aren’t just from people interpreting the information around us differently. A world where disagreement isn’t just from a misunderstanding.
Because all of those things are fixable. Whether through education, logic and empathy, or explanation, it’s possible to at least understand where the disconnect happens, and then try to do something about it.
Instead, we live in a world where saying “Racism is bad” is interpreted as “You hate America”. A world where “LGBTQIA+ folks should have the same rights as all Americans” is interpreted as “You hate Christians”. Where empathic principles are co-opted to promote bigotry. Where supporting immigration is seen as “socialist”, though the first chapter of an economics textbook points out that the free movement of labor is a key principle of capitalist free market economics. And so on.
Where the other person is not merely wrong, but so staggeringly wrong that there must be a willful lack of comprehension on their part.
We need a word.
Discomprehension is that word.
Definition: A willful lack of comprehension in order to argue or maintain a mental position, often relying on misinformation or tautologies for reinforcement.
Examples of use:
* “I knew Tom was discomprehending me when he said you couldn’t trust virologists about viruses.”
* “Chappelle’s discomprehension seems to stem from the idea that civil rights can only improve for one group at a time.”
I’m only aware of the term being used as a synonym for miscomprehending, or in Tom Weller’s satrical 1985 book Science Made Stupid: How to Discomprehend the World Around Us (which has free author-endorsed high resolution scans available, as the book is well out of print).
So as we enter the (US) Thanksgiving season, maybe this term will help you cope – or at least categorize – what conversation flies across the table.
And remember, if you can’t push back against bigotry, racism, and fascism over the holidays for whatever reason, that does not mean you must endure it. There is a solution that I came up with in 2018 and still endorse.
Contact the host and make this request:
I know there’s a lot of us who are going to be together for several hours. And I know that some of us have completely different political opinions. But this holiday is supposed to be able all of us coming together as family and feeling safe around each other. Can we publicly make it a rule that nobody is going to talk politics while we’re all physically together during the holiday, and that whoever breaks that rule – no matter what their politics are – is the person who is in the wrong? And that if that person persists, that they will be the one asked to leave?
I’ve run this idea past a lot of people of all sorts of political stripes.
ALL of them agreed that this would be a reasonable request.
If the person/people organizing your family holiday celebration refuse this request, they’ve told you quite explicitly that their ideology matters more than you do.
And if that’s the case, then there’s no reason for you to attend and subject yourself to it.
Good luck, and have a happy holiday.