This past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the eve of the “National Day of Patriotic Devotion” (i.e., the Beginning of the End), I went on a hike in Lands End in San Francisco. I wanted to get back into nature, as I had not been on a hike in the 2 years I’ve lived in ‘Frisco (*ducks*), and I made a goal for the year to explore the area. (And you should, including the Sutro Baths relics and majestic views of the Pacific Ocean, while we’re still alive.)
Whilst on said hike, I passed by many people — young families, couples, friends — engaging with the elements, and most seemed blissfully in the moment. That general obliviousness streak was interrupted by a 20-something white guy passing on my left. The stocky dude, wearing a baseball cap and shorts, loudly whined “What am I supposed to do?” Trust Fund Bro could have had a multitude of reasons for his whimper, but that sour sob rattled me all the same. It’s a sound made by a wailing child, frustrated at being caught out in a lie or angry at being made to apologize.
But it’s not limited to children, apparently. For example, have you been on the internet? I went onto the internet today, and I saw several people ask/whine a version of “What good does it do to delete the Uber app?”
[This is (or was, whenever you read this) three days after Cheeto-in-Chief Donald Trump signed the executive order to ban immigrants and refugees from seven countries with a majority of Muslim-practicing people. While many companies protested the immigration order, and several took Trump to task for his bigotry, transportation tech giant Uber — a shady–ass company — ignored the New York Taxi Workers Alliance call to avoid JFK Airport pick-ups and tweeted that it would be available. Ride-share company Lyft announced that they would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years in opposition of Trump’s violation of the corporation’s and nation’s “core values.”]
In a form of digital protest, many Uber customers began deleting the app from their phone and their Uber accounts. So seeing the spelled-out-sniveling “What good does it do to delete the Uber app?” hit home in the same way that Boner Bro’s braying was annoying; the (probably rhetorical) question rang false, asking nothing while feigning discussion.
There are three types of people that ask this type of question: the genuinely curious; the shit-stirrer; and the ignorant but generally progressive person. Like Tech Tool’s Trill, many whites last year blubbered some variation of “Why do the blacks care about being recognized by the Oscars?” when #OscarsSoWhite trended after people of color were absent from the Academy Award nominations in 2015 and 2016 (answer: because creative people of all races want to be recognized). And it’s easy to recognize whether the questioner is willfully ignorant, keen to learn, or wants to watch social media burn.
With the internet giving us more information than we can digest, it should be a snap to answer every idiotic query that gurgles through your brain. But then it farts out! Trump’s immigration order led me to ask my version of the brain fart.
Eating dinner with friends, I spluttered the (verbatim) question, “So, what can we do to stop this?” (“This” being Trump’s/Bannon’s trial of terror.) I’d learned to text, call, mail, and email government officials; and protest. I’d long had the belief of diverting my ducats to companies that better represented my interests. But things look(ed) bleak: little was done by the legislative branch to oppose Trump’s tyranny, and a thousand-yard stare into the abyss seemed to be the viewpoint of the country’s future. So I was going for broke, outsourcing my plea for some brainstorming.
While we didn’t gin up any meaningful solutions (something involving sponges and toilets), I felt enough kinship to raise the question with an open mind and ear for answers. I wasn’t whining, and I wasn’t looking to play Devil’s Advocate. I hope to gain from experience and camaraderie, and though I won’t introduce sponge to toilet, I can invite and foster such discussions. And that’s what a meaningful, honest question can do.