Projection and insanity

(written 11/3/03) About a month ago, I was in the toll lanes leading towards the Bay Bridge and waiting in line when a guy tried to cut me off and just muscle in front of me. I didn’t let him. The guy behind me did. As he swerved in behind me, he yelled “Asshole!” at me, which I heard since my windows were down. I find this to be a kind of weird and interesting case of projection. He’s the one being rude, barging in without even the courtesy of a signal, and I’m the one who’s an asshole for not backing down? I don’t get it. It’s somewhat disturbing that he expects everybody to be a doormat for him.

I think the only reason it sticks in my brain is because I read a lot of Phil Agre, and he’s commented at length on the issue of how the conservatives of this country have taken projection to a whole new level. As he puts it in one post:

America is now Upside-Down-Backwards Land; it is filled with people who are 
capable of doing *anything*, because whatever they do, no matter how crazy
or extreme, they hallucinate that it is really being done to them.

That’s what I felt like when dealing with that other driver. And I don’t know how to respond. Agre believes that continued and patient re-assertion of the truth and analyzing the sheer irrationality will eventually win through. I’m unconvinced. I tend to uncharitably think that people want to be irrational, to hold onto their cherished beliefs, and to be told what to think. But that attitude doesn’t help. However, engaging with the enemy is so exhausting when everything you say gets twisted around and taken out of context that I don’t know how people do it. I’d explode (and be mocked as a crazy liberal). It’s distressing because the situation is only getting worse as the divide between the cities and the heartland of this country grows wider. It’s hard for many of my friends in Boston and San Francisco to realize just how unrepresentative of America as a whole they are. Argh.