I see what ur doing

Sarah Silverman, a troll, back pain, and understanding. Plus: a vaccine! And, 7 other things worth your time.

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Today, I’d like to share a story that’s from a few years ago, but that seems right on point in terms of the current tone — and might be what people really need from each other right now.

It’s about how to take someone who’s attacking you, display kindness—and maybe even sometimes turn them into an ally.

Our heroine is the comedian Sarah Silverman.

Our antagonist, in both the literary and colloquial senses, is a guy in San Antonio named Jeremy Jamrozy.

About two years ago, Silverman was on a mission to reach out to people she didn’t understand or agree with. Who the heck does that in the United States today?

It was part of her Hulu series at the time, called, I Love You America.

Among her outreach tools was Twitter, and Jamrozy trolled her on the site in one of the least creative ways possible: basically calling her a one-word epithet, out of the blue.

Rather than take Jamrozy down (she's funny; she could do it pretty easily), Silverman took the time to look through his Twitter timeline and learn a bit.

It turns out that included some very difficult posts he’d shared about abuse when he was younger, and about a back injury that left him in constant pain.

And, she replied like this:

"I believe in you. I read ur timeline & I see what ur doing & your rage is thinly veiled pain. But u know that.  I know this feeling. Ps My back [F] sux too.  see what happens when u choose love. I see it in you."

The response caught Jamrozy off-guard, and he engaged—constructively, but sadly: 

"I can't choose love. A man that resembles Kevin Spacey took that away when I was 8. I can't find peace, if I could find that guy who ripped my body who stripped my innocence I'd kill him. He [F] me up and I'm poor so it's hard to get help."

Hundreds if not thousands of people watched and commented as Silverman and Jamrozy went back and forth. She asked him to consider joining a support group. In the days that followed she tried to find a doctor in San Antonio who might treat his back.

When Jamrozy put up a GoFundMe to try to pay for treatment, she shared the link; when it turned out that the price to repair his five slipped discs was far more than he'd be able to raise, Silverman offered to pay for it herself.

I wrote about this when it happened over on Inc.com, and I broke down a few components of Silverman’s response:

  1. She took a pause before replying. She’s a woman with a fully loaded arsenal of wit and could have unloaded on Jamrozy, but she held off.

  2. She took time to learn the context. Tim Ferriss says in his book, Tools of Titans: “Everyone is fighting a battle [and has fought battles] you know nothing about.”

  3. She took a chance. The safest thing to do might have been simply to ignore Jamrozy's caustic comment. That’s what I do most often with crazy people on the Internet. But, I think Silverman deserves a lot of credit.

  4. She offered love and understanding. Her response was authentic, empathetic, and personal.

  5. She stuck around. One of the nicest things about this story is that it didn’t end quickly. “I was once a giving and nice person … but I became bitter and hateful,” Jamrozy told MySanAntonio.com. “Sarah showed me the way. Don't get me wrong, I still got a long way to go, but it's a start.”

It’s funny, my instinctive reaction to something like this would be to do the exact opposite of what Silverman did. But (a) I’d be wrong, and (b) if I can pat myself on the back for anything, it’s that at least some of the time, I’m getting better at not reacting instinctively.

I don’t mean to overstate what this kind of effort could do for our society right now, but then again, changing society is a pretty high bar to begin with. I like it as a reminder of what it could do for a few people’s lives—including my own.

7 other things worth your time

  • A vaccine(?)!!! Pfizer said Monday that early analysis of its Covid-19 vaccine shows it could be more than 90 percent effective. It’s a very preliminary report, not peer-reviewed, and the timeline before a significant portion of the population could be inoculated is a big issue. But, no two ways about it, this seems like very good news. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., was skeptical of the timing—and I’ll admit if my dad had just lost his reelection campaign a week before this came out, I’d probably think something similar. (NYT, NPR, The Independent)

  • Fascinating: Zoom’s stock fell more than 17 percent in a single day on the promise of a vaccine. (Business Insider)

  • The president fired the secretary of defense Monday, making the announcement via Twitter. His replacement, Christopher Miller, is a retired Army officer (served 1987 to 2014), who would normally be legally barred from serving because he retired from the military too recently. However, since he’ll be the “acting” secretary and the president’s term ends in less than three months anyway, it’s not anticipated to be an issue. (The Washington Post, Defense News)

  • I wrote about what happened during the second-to-last episode of Jeopardy! to be aired during Alex Trebek’s life. Also, who will be the next host, after 36 years? A report says George Stephanopoulos was actually pushing for it, which seems odd, but the far more likely choice is all-time winner Ken Jennings, who was hired as an assistant producer on the show earlier this year. (Inc.com, ShowBiz411, TheWrap)

  • Congratulations are in order (with tongue firmly in cheek) to Eric Schmidt, who made billions as the CEO of Google, and who has apparently bought citizenship for himself and his family in Cyprus, which is part of the European Union. (Vox)

  • Instead of working from home, will “work near home” be the real winning trend, post-pandemic? The British financial services and banking corporation Standard Chartered, with 85,000 employees, is betting yes. (Bloomberg)

  • College was kind of a long time ago for me now. Maybe for you, too. So you might be interested to learn what it’s like to take a remote exam now: starting with the highly intrusive software that you have to install on your computer. (Vice)

Photo credit: Wikipedia, crossing my fingers that it counts as fair use. As mentioned, I wrote about Sarah Silverman for Inc.com when this first happened. If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers. You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com. 

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