There's kindness. And then there's SOMETHING ELSE disguised as kindness. I've experienced both. This SOMETHING ELSE is what I've been wanting to write about for a while but it wasn't until recently that the dots of what I wanted to say connected. It happened when I was watching gymnast Aly Raisman on 60 minutes. She's been going to schools talking to students to raise awareness about how predators like Larry Nassar (the gymnast doctor who abused Aly) target and groom their victims. One main strategy is to offer extreme kindness to the target. And once the kindness is thick and the trust is high, the kindness transforms into SOMETHING ELSE.
There's this "be kind" message omnipresent these days. It's on posters. On shirts. It's also in the form of other stuff ... like an unexpected birthday gift ... free tickets to Disneyland! An effusive FB/IG post declaring how you're the best art sissy in the world.
More than once I've been on the receiving end of such gestures. And more than once I've found that those gestures precede the SOMETHING ELSE that eventually surfaces. That SOMETHING ELSE is all about the predator weaponizing kindness to take without consent, to manipulate, to control and then ultimately punish if the victim doesn't fall in line ... all the while donning an exaggerated smile with seemingly innocuous mantras like "Find your tribe, love them hard."
The sexual abuse that Raisman suffered doesn't compare to the kind of bullshit I'm pointing to. Of course not. It's just that.
I think it's dangerous to always take kindness (whether with a trusted physician or the latest art-sister for life) at face value. And sometimes it takes a lot of strength to walk a direction different from the tribe to find a steady, solid path. It's usually on that path that I sometimes encounter what appear to be shimmery gems in the dirt ... which sometimes turn out to be pretty stones, or drops of rain ... and sometimes, actual bits of true kindness ... not clamoring to be seen, but just quietly shining still.