I shrink into myself when this archetype walks into the room now. The topics and settings may change, but the tone does not. Republicans vs. Democrats. Does Islamophobia exist? Acceptable eating habits. Dogs or cats. Friends or Seinfeld. He’s angrily bombastic about it all. He judges harshly people in situations he’ll never experience.
I start out having a normal conversation, and then the warning signs begin. His voice rises, he interrupts, he puts me down unnecessarily harshly. There isn’t a way to stop it once it’s started. I’m not sure if there’s a way to prevent it before it begins. It’s as if he’s a dormant volcano, pressure always building up inside, waiting, almost wanting, to erupt. There’s no way to tell by looking until it’s too late, and the bystanders are already covered in ash, lava flowing out of his mouth burning. Especially burning me.
I’m not a pushover, not cowed easily at first. I’ve tried arguing my side. I’ve tried pointing out the places where we agree. Even just remaining silent, shutting down. None of it stills the indignant rush of disjointed words, bits and pieces of worldviews I’ve heard other places, never focused on a single issue.
I watch him, attempting to take myself out of it, to view the spectacle dispassionately. I know it’s not an attack on me personally because I’ve seen him do this with others. Where is the anger coming from? Why does the guy who has it all care if I want to stand up for the less fortunate? How does he thinks it’s OK to belittle the accounts from my perspective?
There’s a desperation in his manner, a resistance to letting me finish my point, an inability to listen. I don’t know if it’s a fear of being caught looking foolish, an arrogant belief in his own omniscience, or confusion about his verbal skillfulness in a debate.
I’ve met a fair number of bulldozers like this throughout my life. It’s always been hard for me to relate to a person who can’t rest in the grey areas and won’t accept the peaceful disagreement between two people with different perspectives.