The Gorilla In The Room
Human perception isn’t just seeing or hearing. What we expect to see or hear frequently blinds us to what’s really going on.
In Old Orchard Beach, Maine last week, a nasty event was reported to the police. A man arrived at the police station to complain that he’d been insulted by a woman (a town councilor) casting a racial slur his way and while the police found no basis for a criminal complaint, word spread quickly through the town and local media. The accused councilor has been publicly shamed and denounced as a racist both in the media and in a televised Town Council meeting.
To be fair, the man’s story was corroborated by one woman in town who, it turns out, was responsible for bringing him from Auburn (60 miles away) to circulate petitions for the recall of three of our town councilors. The woman accused of using the slur was one of those three councilors.
The woman who brought the petition circulator to town is also the head of the committee formed to circulate those petitions.
Although the gentleman was not legally authorized to circulate petitions (he is not a registered voter in nor a resident of our town) and notwithstanding that he wore an entirely fabricated photo-ID badge around his neck identifying himself as “State Petitioner Grace D – Authorized State Signature Collector” (our State does not offer or authorize anyone to be a “State Petitioner”) – that was the subject of a earlier piece I wrote and those are side issues here.
Here’s my point for today: A very serious and damaging accusation was made by this man and backed up by the testimony of the woman who was admittedly responsible for his being there. Each insists they heard what they heard. Others sharply dispute it.
Perhaps the allegations are true, but perhaps they not. And if not, those who repeat and embellish the tale are guilty of something even more profoundly offensive. Sometime we see exactly what we’re looking for and miss more important stuff.
Here’s a test. Even if you’ve heard of this test, watch anyway and see how well are your perceptions working: