May 24, 2009

People We Don't "Get"

Thinking about those things I "get," and those things I "don't get." Getting or not getting is often the line drawn between indifference and judgment.

We "get" someone we know. They're good in our book. Immediate respect, if not acceptance.

We don't get someone we know. They're underdeveloped, undereducated, psycho, or a whole 'nother pie in the Venn Diagram. Whatever the case, they're still beneath Us.


Perhaps they're saved from immediate rejection because we're intrigued. Intrigue postpones judgment until we know enough to make a judgment call. Then, they're either 1) chaff for the chaff pile, 2) so out-there, they're cool (and we're even cooler because we "get" them), or 3) the same as you and me, but aware of elements of existence we may have never heard of.

Nothing is stupid.

Some people train all year to take the title of the next Anyfood-Eating Contest. Well, why would someone take competitive eating so seriously?

Could we at all imagine a "good" reason? For just a moment? Could we bet it all that no competitive eater has a good reason for choosing her aspiration?

I believe there is at least one "good" reason, one reason that would serve as a tiny artery, carrying empathy from one polarized creature to another. If we knew that answer, we might be so much slower to judge competitive eaters. We might "get" them.

Some folks I don't "get," but suspect there may be at least one story with which I could sympathize, which would shatter any preconceived notions I have and perhaps strengthen my character:
  • strippers
  • (pseudo-religious) Elvis fans
  • nudist families
  • mail-order brides
  • gangsters over 35
  • serious (and successful) artists who have no time for humor in life
  • defense lawyers
  • priests who are ordained very, very young
  • professional boxers
My question is, "I don't get it. WHY?"

And now that I think of it, any one of these individuals would make a great protagonist for a book.


  1. Defense lawyers. They are among the good guys in my book, especially public defenders (among whom I count a few good friends). The bad guys need to be put away (or whatever), but the good guys, in pursuing this end, must not themselves become the bad guys. If you break your own laws in order to convict someone of breaking other laws, you have become the bad guy, because the laws exist at the pleasure of the populace.

    Innocent until proven guilty is a huge burden, but it is better than the alternate. Defense attorneys are there to make sure that the burden is assumed responsibly by the prosecution. Better to let a hundred guilty people go free, one attorney told me, than to let one innocent man be locked up. Yes, we sacrifice security and safety when we hold the prosecutors to such a high standard or allow guilty people go because of technicalities, but it is the prosecution's responsibility to pay attention to those technicalities, because they exist for a reason.

    That reason? It could be you or me in that defense chair someday.

    Yeah, it's an imperfect system. But like the guys says: It's better than all the other systems out there.

  2. Defense lawyers. Very good points there. I'd like to think all defense lawyers work with the same conviction and continually strive to preserve that purpose, but it mystifies me, how a person with that vocation deals with defendants who are charged with appalling crimes. I don't "get" how a person can be that objective.

    I'm afraid I don't know any defense lawyers, but I would love to see a documentary on it. I'd really like to hear personal stories, how defense attorneys deal with all the conflicts (inner, of interests, etc.) of doing the job they do.