I’m going to start out with a little piece of Deacon King Kong by James McBride:

“He goes out there and insults the Jews and nobody says a drop about it. Except us. The Jews hate us, man! They don’t want no projects out there in Forest Hills.”

“Dig That.”

And the whiteys hate the Jews, because the Jews run everything. You dig?”

Now- it you read that passage without any accompaniment. what do you think? You don’t have to say it out loud, but how do the words presented sound when you roll them around in your brain? Chew on that for a moment…

Do these four lines need more context in order to give one the full meaning?


Do you think this mini section stands alone?

When you hear/read/see something, how much context do you need to understand it and make sense of it?

Should you make a decision about the book based on the four lines that I quoted?

Ok- now I’m going to go way to the far end of the tree branch and make a statement that may or may not make sense…even I haven’t thought this one out fully… Lucky you- you get to be here for the actual genesis of an idea in my brain…Huzzah…Prepare to be scared because I’m not quite sure what’s about to spill forth…

Do we ever really have the full story on anything, because do we ever all the contextual things that we need in order to make a decision/judgement/whatever?

Every statement I make is a compilation of all the things that make up my background, and what is going on in my present, and what I am preparing for in the future.

If I make a statement that you don’t agree with, it is fair to chide me unless you know my whole backstory?

I know, this sort of goes back to my NO JUDGEMENT zone, which you also know I manipulate sometimes to prove a point…

Should you ever tell someone that what they are thinking or feeling is wrong? (for the record- I still hold that math has right and wrong answers, but you have to know my background as someone who wants correct change and for my taxes to be done fairly to fully comprehend why I feel this way)

Should we stop giving people grief because they think differently than us because we don’t know the context of their lives?


68 thoughts on “Contextually Speaking

  1. I would never tell someone they are wrong (even though I may think it). It is only a select few that I feel it is even my place to (occasionally) ask questions about something they are doing or thinking. (adult children for example) I felt my job as a parent was to work myself out of a job…I don’t want to be one of those parents who sticks their noses in where they are not invited. Even more so, with the rest of the people in my life. I’m amazed to be honest, that the world functions as well as it does, with the myriad of world views that people have.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. You can tell people what they are thinking and feeling is wrong. But you can’t force them to be right – which I guess would be the “grief” part.

    Approaching it with either logic or sophism: if we’re to accept that everyone has “their truth”, then it’s not actually Truth but opinion, so subject to me coming along with “my truth” and pointing that “their truth” and “my truth” are different, contradictory. I can’t force them to accept “my truth”, but their entitlement to spread “their truth” entitles me to spread mine.

    If, on the other hand, “your truth” and “my truth” are nonsense ideas and there is only truth. Then anyone’s idea of the truth is subject to being challenged, on the grounds that it’s wrong.

    Incidentally, I think there are some areas of life where there is Truth and other’s where there’s only Opinion. Both are subject to scrutiny and it’d be a poor world where they weren’t. See: the Spanish Inquisition. See: the Execution of Socrates. See: well you know the rest.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. I think that’s an excellent way to put it.

        We’d be as well calling “truth”: “truth as it is currently understood.” You’d be hard pressed right now to find someone who doesn’t accept Newtonian gravity. But if I remember dates roughly right, its only been about 400 years. Before that Aristotle’s theory of Gravity was the accepted one, about the elements fire and water moving up and down. Silly now, but Newton has at least 1000 years to go before his gravity has had the lifespan Ari’s had.

        They were both concerned with explaining the same fact: that apples fall, that we don’t float away. We call the later one right because with it we can make more accurate predictions. But is it completely right forever? There’s no way of knowing. But it’s true, as we understand it.

        Even in appraising art, there is the basic fact of the art. Then there’s only opinion. You might say this one has much better lighting than the other: I say vice versa. “Better” lighting doesn’t mean “objectively better”, it means “I like it better.” I think, which, of course is the point. 😅

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yesterday on Facebook someone said they didn’t understand what the big deal about “power of the dog” which is what I consider one of top three movie of the year. My other friend thinks Will Smith totally deserves the Oscar for king richard, where I thought it wasn’t a stretch for him. Who’s right? They might both win, but is the truth they’re both best?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “The truth is that they’re both the best.” I can’t see how it can be anything but that. I enjoyed Power of the Dog – but not even as much as I was expecting to – but I know for a fact my husband would hate it. He’d say “it’s too slow” – and that’s fine. Much as I occasionally say he doesn’t like good movies, I know the “truth” is that he does like “good movies”, we just have different ways of deciding what a “good movie” is.

        And acting: what is a “good performance”? Is it entertainment, is it transformation. Did Clark Gable – and John Wayne – never deliver a good performance, since they played “themselves” in every picture? Was Meryl Streep’s performance in Sophie’s Choice not a “good performance” because it was “hard to watch”? There’s no right answer – or, more accurately, there are no wrong answers, because it’s all a matter of what the viewer preferred.

        And if either, neither or both win the Oscar, what does that say about their merits? Nothing, at all. Because the Academy is not some machine that has the final say on what Best is, nor beholden to some objective Golden Standard (like Plato’s Ideas, “a good film in itself”) by which all others must be judged. The Academy are just a group of filmmakers who vote on their favourite (or if you want to be cynical the one that had the best “for your consideration” campaign) – and the film that is the “most favourited” is called “Best Picture”.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. All spot on. I saw Power early on, with no preconceptions, so I felt it was very powerful. Saw king richard after people raved….expectations carry a lot

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The problem with saying “your truth” and “my truth” is that we’re acknowledging that basic facts of life change based on social climate.

      I can’t find a happy middle ground on that point yet, but do see that constant change based on opinion is creating many negative side effects.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Not that I’m a huge subscriber to the idea outside of things that are obviously based on opinion, but I think the problem with “your truth” “my truth” isn’t so much the idea itself, but that its proponents don’t seriously believe or have not thought it through. It doesn’t make any sense to say the basic facts of life change, all you can mean by “my truth” is that you interpret them differently. Again, the obvious corollary to that is “so does everyone else.”

        The question then is how, if we were going to, do we incorporate that into society. The funny thing is I think we already discovered the best way we can do that. The reciprocal freedoms: speech and thought, conscience & religion. These to me are the middle ground. The irony is that those most likely to cry “my truth” are those least likely to have an interest in those freedoms – that’s where I think they don’t really believe what they preach. When they say, my truth, judging by their actions, they actually do mean, “my truth is the only Truth.” My two cents, anyway.

        Liked by 7 people

      2. Don’t get me started on the perversion of the word ‘liberal’ – it literally means ‘free’, it’s the polar opposite of censorship. Doublespeak, is what it is.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Ha! I’m literally cutting my husband off lately when he’s ‘wrong’ lately. Despite claiming a public passivity, I’ve noticed I correct statements that sound too harsh one way or the other.

    Really, it ties into your other post about confrontation. I see that completely open tolerance allows for behaviors that degrade or endanger society. Think about it: can a man do inappropriate things with a goat in public? May I punch the lady who almost ran over my children in the crosswalk and then told me, “You’re not in charge?” Should someone speak up when people are held without a trial in the United States?

    There are always decided-upon lines. Always.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes. Punch a person who almost runs over your kid. Speak up for those held without trial. Don’t let the guy anywhere near the goat. But that’s not censorship. But while people say right answers in math is racist, and that I shouldn’t use the word see, I’m fighting

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Ha! I decided I would get cited for assault… and I disagree. We are big into not telling a man and man they can’t kiss in front of people and that used to be taboo. Why be offended by the goat?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I believe in order to have a discussion with someone you have to be able to agree to disagree. I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell you/me that what we feel in that moment is wrong. To understand why someone feels the way they feel in that moment is more powerful than to pass judgment and say we are wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Telling someone they are wrong in a private conversation is very different than publicly arguing or cancelling someone. You do need context ! As for the quotes , that could have been a comedian or someone relating something they disagreed with. But yes , people are always changing their minds and it can be drastic ! So we have to be very, very careful not to judge someone on past statements. They could be a totally different person in the present. It’s just wrong to judge someone who said dumb things in the past even if they really believed it at the time. Too many people are very prone to speaking without thinking for it to be reasonable to judge them/us in that way. And judging people these days can be very damaging . It’s not just a light thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Should I tell someone they are wrong in what they feel or think? No. Have I, yes and I think most people have if they are honest. You have a lot of deep answers happening here that are great, but simple answer seems to be that judging based on one statement is wrong. Context and background bring a wider understanding if we are patient enough to hold our own opinions and judgments and reactions.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I don’t expect to be told I am wrong and will usually entertain opposing views but I also will not tell someone else they are wrong. If a proper consideration conversation can be had then we all might benefit but otherwise I respect their right to think and expect them to respect mine

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Telling someone that what they are feeling is wrong, simply invalidates them. Perhaps we may choose to correct the expression of that feeling, but not the feeling itself. We all approach situations from our own perspectives, alternatively if there are no boundaries we’d be uncivilized. There are hard rules for many things that are right or wrong, however when approached emotionally based on our own lens and triggers we can run into some troubles. Love the thoughtful questions you often pose LA.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t think we can ever fully understand another human being, unless said human being shares everything, and the reality is that most human beings don’t share EVERYTHING.

    We should TRY to understand one another before passing judgment or judging a few lines or words, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think not passing judgement is just so hard for everyone. We see what we don’t like or understand and we immediately placate ourselves that the other person is somehow wrong….if that makes sense

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I would need context before judging these comments. Upon first reading them I couldn’t respond because my first gut reaction was to feel sick to my stomach. I knew I had to wait before responding. Sometimes a writer must put hateful dialogue into a piece because if a character is a bigot his dialogue will reflect those sentiments. I wrote a short story years ago and it was written from the POV of a murderer . I had to go to such a dark place to write his thoughts. So yes, I need context. Because without it my first reaction was painful. I have walked into a room and too many times over heard antisemitic jokes or innuendos and I would have to address those comments. I learned growing up right after WWII that doing or saying nothing is no better than being the one holding the gun. So I speak up when it’s justified. And outing a bigot in public embarrasses them. I feel maybe they will think about what they say in public next time. But There is a difference in someone who is ignorant and doesn’t know better. And a person who is actually a racist.

    My younger son told me about an experience that bothered him. He went to an ugly sweater holiday party last year. He wore his ugly Chanukah sweater that he ordered special for the party. One girl he knew from work looked at his sweater and said, “OMG Johnny I didn’t know you were Jewish. I hope I never said anything about Jews or told a joke about them that offended you. “ And his answer to her was,
    “My question to you is Why would you even tell a joke or say something that puts down any group of people? That’s what you need to think about. You need to do some soul searching. “
    And he walked away. But it bothered him and he called me the next day to talk about it.
    I told him I have a tendency to let people know right awAy that I’m Jewish because if I don’t then inevitably someone is always going to say something offensive.
    It bothered me that my son had to go to a holiday party and hear that garbage.
    I would do what my son did and ask them WHY they had a need to target minorities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And LA after hearing the context, I would definitely comment if they said anything offensive about any race, religion or gender. In 2022 it’s about time people learned that every one has value and deserves equality and the right to worship G-d as they please. Most likely I would pull the person aside but if the situation required it I would indeed comment. I don’t back away from bigotry. Too many people have died for the right to live in freedom and worship as they please.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Fascinating discussion on this one – and one of those when I could leave it without commenting because my contributions have largely already been made. But here’s a couple of thoughts anyway….

    I immediately thought the quote from from Paul Beatty’s ‘The Sellout’, before I realised you’d already provided the source.

    There are no empirical rights (or wrongs) if based on opinion instead of fact. But that doesn’t stop people believing otherwise and acting accordingly. My view is we can all express our disagreement with what another person believes or opines, but telling them they are wrong, except when it’s factually correct that they are – isn’t on. But as that requires us to be extremely careful with the words we use, especially at times when emotions may be high – I know I fail on this one, and I’m sure many others do too.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Mark you are so right in your depiction of The Academy. And LA you know my youngest son is in the Director’s Guild. So he is part of the film industry and votes for certain categories at the Academy Awards. (He does not vote for best actor) but he does for lighting, direction, best picture and a host of other categories. But each award is voted on by folks in that particular industry. And they are simply a group of people. The movie magic we see is not what they see necessarily. They dissect a film differently. And for actors I’m sure popularity is a thing too. A dear friend I went to college with, and with whom I acted, went on and continued acting for many many years before becoming the editor of a popular women’s magazine,
    maintained her SAG card and still votes on various categories at the Academy awards. I know two categories she on are best actor and best picture. (I am not sure which other categories). Now, keep in mind, actors tend to look at performances differently, at least method actors do. They look at an actor’s believability, was it three dimensional, their use of subtext, etc. My son, on the other hand being a director, will judge best picture differently. He notices details in lighting, mistakes where an extra was used too many times, scene transitions and if frames line up perfectly or if an actor’s wardrobe didn’t match up in a scene etc. ( yes that’s an editing mistake but it wasn’t caught). Now that I’ve watched all the details that he’s pointed out I start noticing them too, it kind of ruins watching films. So he judges and votes on films on a whole different level. The plot may be excellent but that’s not the entire picture. Best film incorporates everything. But Mark is right, they are just a group of people. And their opinions are just that. And not all film people are “liberal “. (Remember my son who faced anti-semitism at the holiday party? ) Most tv shows and movies are now filmed in Georgia. (Script writing and editing is usually California based) And the behind the scenes people are regular every day folks. But their truth is not necessarily our truth. Also, Film folks see beyond the finished product. Their votes may be clouded by the “Truth” of the film industry and not the finished product that we see. They look at a pretty snow scene down Main Street and frown rather than smile because they know it was filmed in freezing cold weather at 2 in the morning when Main Street was closed. Or when it was 110 in the heat of summer and they wore a fur coat and did 20 takes, used a snow machine and people passed out from the heat. Yeah, it’s ALL based on opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m pretty clueless about what’s going on in Hollywood. I don’t read celebrity gossip. They are all so silly. And I have to say I’ve asked my son about certain actors he’s worked with and he has had nice things to say about most everyone. But those gossip mags are often just nonsense. When he was working on one of the Baywatch movies I got calls from friends asking what I thought about my son’s new sexy girlfriend. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Evidently during shooting he was leaning over giving direction to one of the stars and she was in a bathing suit. A photographer must have snapped some pictures. The funny thing is that because it was being filmed on a beach, my son had on sunglasses and a baseball cap. So they couldn’t see his face clearly. The tabloids led with …”Who is so and so’s secret lover.” Of course anyone who knew him recognized him, It was a silly made up story but it sure made me aware of all the fake news there is out there.lol.

        Later in the day my son called because he figured I would have gotten word of the pics in the tabloids. He laughed and told me how he was bending over giving her directions bla bla bla. Evidently it was a windy day and the sand was blowing in their faces, So he put his arm up to block the sand. However, from certain camera angles it looked more intimate. We laughed about it. But it was bogus nonsense. I told him she looked nice so it didn’t bother me. He laughed and said something funny like, “ Trust me Mom, she is very nice, but she’s not my type. Let’s just say… I wouldn’t be able to discuss Hamlet with her. Plus, it wouldn’t be professional to get involved with anyone on set. “

        So you can’t believe what you read all the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I look at a situation like this as an opportunity to share personal experiences and to learn about and from each other. When that has happened, I have never been afraid to admit I may have been coming from a pre-conceived notion about the other party, generally based mostly on outward appearance but sometimes also taking into consideration a few other factors i.e accent, vocabulary, where we met, etc.. I would also add that one thing that I also cannot for the life of me understand is why many black people seem to have it in for Jews. I mean, their minority status is so clearly visible that one would think they might try to keep an open mind for those of us that fall into an “invisible” minority status. I’ve always thought I had it easier than my friends of color in that regard alone, that I could hide it if I so choose, though I don’t, especially when dealing with ignorant Christians.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hmmm, it’s impossible not to react to the opening lines here, but your’e right, we don’t know the backstory. I think you can’t tell a person what to think. If someone makes a derogatory comment about race/culture/religion, however, it would be hard not to call them out, but that would depend on the setting. Also, people often say things without thinking them through, because they’re still working things out in their minds. It may be the person speaking comes around to an entirely different thought than initially expressed because they had the chance to air out their feelings. As always, an excellent topic, LA.

    Liked by 1 person

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