A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend of mine posted a few very offensive news stories with some twist-the-knife-esque comments attached.
I’m not very good friends with this person, but she’s a family friend of my very best friend from childhood, so I see her every now and again at family events, kids’ birthday parties, etc… I’ve never thought her to be anything but pleasant in person, and a harmless but overly-vocal conspiracy theorist/I-read-one-article-this-must-be-true-and-now-I’m-going-to-educate-you-about-how-eveyrone-else-is-an-idiot-also-coconut-oil-is-amazing Facebook poster.
I’ve never though too much about her posts until she posted two very homophobic articles and said in the comments that she feels justified in her point of view. I couldn’t believe what I was feeling. My heart rate increased, and I was shocked. I felt assaulted at my kitchen table. I know people have those feelings “out there in the world,” but through Facebook, that hatred filtered its way into my home. Just to give you a context that will clarify why this felt particularly personal: I was raised in a lesbian household. Although I do have a dad as my parents had started off as a married couple, they have been separated for as far back as I can remember and the parents in my home were my mother and her now wife.
I’m typically of the mind that progress is being made, and if someone is irrationally hateful, it’s simply not my problem. I believe you change the world with your own behavior and by raising kind and honorable children. My day is full enough if I try to really do my best with just those goals. This time, it felt different. I had recently read excepts from Dr. Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham Jail and was inspired by his thoughts on the “white moderate” – basically, white people who did not share the sentiment of the oppressors, who felt there was injustice, but who would NOT take direct action. This is me. I am polite, I don’t “cause a fuss.” I exchange pleasantries with people at social gatherings, I don’t challenge them. It would make people uncomfortable.
Well, I know Dr. King and I are not talking about the exact same thing, but the concept hit home. I felt that he was… well… calling me out.
But now, what to do? I feel compelled to speak out, raise my voice; but I also don’t feel that it’s my place to cause any kind of rift in my friend’s family dynamic. We’re all going to see each other soon, at the next baptism, birthday, holiday event… I’m big on respecting people’s space and right to define their own lives. I feel I have no right to decide to make an issue of something when it affects other people’s family unit, not my own.
So, there was my dilemma. What I ended up doing was writing a response, but opting not to send it. Maybe that’s me, not growing out of my old habits; or maybe this was not the time to speak up as it would simply be inappropriate and, in the end, likely useless. I decided the latter was the best choice.
In the spirit of not being completely silent, I share my “comment” with you here:
I understand that we all see the world through different eyes. I am rarely bothered by people who post articles about political views which differ from my own; in fact, I have many friends who, were they to meet, would not be able to get along because they are on completely different sides of a spectrum, and would each find the other to be completely crazy. I have friends who hate Barack Obama, and others who adore him and think he can do no wrong; friends who consider Ronald Reagan to be one of the greatest American figures of our time, and others who can’t say his name without an air of utter disdain. This doesn’t affect how much I value them as an individual and a friend. The list can go on, but the idea of course is that we all have a unique point of view, and it doesn’t mean that we have to be at odds with one another because we may disagree. It’s ok to be different. It’s natural and we are entitled to express ourselves.
I don’t see you as anyone who would ever want to intentionally inflict pain on someone, so I have to share with you that this post, as well as the post about Dolce and Gabbana and your comment, have left me feeling deeply hurt. You may or may not know this, but I come from a non-traditional household, raised by two women who met and fell in love around 40 years ago. Though my family did not look like a typical American family (mom, dad, 2.5 kids, white picket fence, etc…), I have always felt blessed to have grown up in such a loving, supportive home and raised by parents with great morals and character. They have both been wonderful parents, and they are great people. They both served our country in the military, and they have committed their professional lives to the service of others, both of them nurses for over 40 years. They are kind to others and are honest, loving human beings. I understand that a Facebook post is, very simply, the sharing of a person’s point of view, and when it’s posted for 500 different friends to see, I know that it’s not directed at me. That being said, I’m sure you can imagine that I can’t help but take this personally and be deeply pained by it. This, and the other post, IS a direct attack on my parents, my entire family, and myself. And it’s not that I don’t hear things like elsewhere. It’s simply a part of life, and it’s true for all of us. No matter who you are, there will always be people who see you/your family/your gender/your ethnicity/your religion/your social status/your lifestyle choices/etc… as inferior — and, therefore, see you as an individual less worthy of love, life and respect… And they will feel 100% justified in their point of view. There are plenty of people out there who look down on my family. It doesn’t really bother me – I know what we have and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The difference here is that I’m just not accustomed to hearing it from someone I know and like. While I’m sure you enjoy expressing yourself and sharing your point of view, I’m sure that you do not enjoy hurting people, and I would bet that you never intended to make me, or anyone else, feel this way. This is why I felt you should know. I’m not going to tell you what to post and what not to post – it is your right, and you should feel free to post whatever you want and I can simply stop following you if I am made to feel this way again — I’m sure you have friends who liked the articles and would be happy to see more. I’d be willing to wager, however, that I am not the only one who has been hurt by these posts.