As someone who grew up in the 70s and 80s, it’s been a surreal experience to go from having in person relationships to online relationships. I remember when I was dating Bill, I told my mom that we’d met in a chat room. My mom was horrified. She thought it was so weird. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t tell her what kind of chat room it was. 😉
Nowadays, a lot of people meet and even become friends online. Some people never meet in person. Others are people we once knew offline, but then continue a relationship on the computer. I think communication has really changed significantly with the development of the Internet. In many ways, it’s made people a lot less civilized than they once were.
Take, for instance, my experience yesterday. On Wednesday, I had shared an article about Mike Pence, who was talking to Kamala Harris at Joe Biden’s inauguration. I remarked that Mike Pence had really redeemed himself in my eyes over the past couple of weeks. I said I thought he had a hell of a lot more class than Trump does. I thought some of my more conservative friends would appreciate the nod to Pence, but I immediately got backlash from so-called friends about this statement.
One of them got so pissed that she eventually blocked me, having also criticized me for saying I was going to buy a Donald Trump toilet brush for my bathroom. My remark to her, when she said she wouldn’t want anything “Trump” in her house was, “Luckily, it’s not your house.” I was totally kidding when I wrote that, but apparently, it struck a nerve. In my defense, I read her comment back to me yesterday morning, while sitting on the toilet and before I’d had my coffee. Maybe she thought it was rude for me to say it wasn’t her house, but I think it’s rude to criticize people’s shopping choices– *shrug*.
For context, we were discussing my new Angela Merkel citrus strainer, which Bill was using to make me a celebratory cocktail on Wednesday night. I have started collecting funny household items, particularly if they involve politicians. I also have a Margaret Thatcher nutcracker, and Soviet Matroyshka dolls that feature all of the former leaders up to Yeltsin. I had commented that the only Trump item I would want is a toilet brush. I wouldn’t want the toilet paper, since I don’t want Trump’s image that close to my genitals. However, I think he’s perfectly useful for scrubbing shit residue from my toilet. It was a joke, anyway.
I can only assume that I got “canceled” because this person, whom I once knew and greatly respected offline, is gay. Mike Pence is famously anti-gay, and when he was Indiana’s Governor, he had no regard for anyone identifying as LGBTQ. Many homosexuals suffered under his regime. I don’t agree with, or condone, the way Pence has treated homosexuals. I suspect he does it because of his deeply religious nature. Like it or not, most religions are against homosexuality. I don’t think being anti-gay is Christlike behavior myself, but as we all know, lots of people have different views and don’t care what mine are.
Whether or not anyone wants to believe me, I actually don’t give a flying fuck what someone’s sexual orientation is. I have several gay relatives, one of whom has become somewhat close in the past few years. My sister-in-law is a lesbian who has been married twice to women. I also have a fuckload of gay and lesbian friends, all of whom I value. I don’t give a shit what anyone does in their bedroom, as long as the people participating can and do consent, and there aren’t any pets or livestock involved.
The person who canceled me yesterday was someone I had considered a friend, but clearly it wasn’t so… she didn’t value my friendship at all. I say this because this one incident involving my comments about Mike Pence upset her so much that she very quickly dropkicked me out of her Facebook sphere. She did so, even though I reiterated repeatedly that I didn’t vote for Pence, and wouldn’t vote for him. I simply recognized that instead of going along with Donald Trump’s criminal QAnon gang, he’d followed the law and probably spared us a bloodbath. And then after that, he was the only representative from the Trump administration who attended the inauguration and acted like a mature and civilized human being. Maybe it shouldn’t impress me that he did his job, but it really did. I see nothing wrong with stating that.
I used to not have any appreciation whatsoever for Pence, so the fact that he’s gone up a few notches doesn’t mean that I love him. The bar was set very low, so any positive regard that came from the past couple of weeks still doesn’t negate his actions of the past. And I truly thought I was being nice when I made that comment on my own page. I certainly didn’t imagine it would turn into a controversy. Perhaps it wouldn’t have gone so far south if I hadn’t used the word “redeemed”. But it was late in the evening; I was feeling emotional, and had enjoyed my evening wine.
I bring this up today because I’ve been really disturbed by the phenomenon of cancel culture. People don’t want to discuss things rationally anymore. We have arguments, and if someone disagrees, it turns into a hair flip and a “Fine, we’re done!” attitude. I know that this wouldn’t happen so quickly if folks were face to face, but it’s hard to do that right now, thanks to the pandemic.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. Last summer, when Mary Kay Letourneau died, I got into an argument on RfM with someone who called me a “rape apologist” because I expressed condolences to those who had loved her. The woman who called me a rape apologist insisted that having any positive regard or empathy for Mary Kay Letourneau meant that I condoned her actions against her former student, Vili Fualaau, who later became her husband. Vili was at Mary Kay’s side when she died. He is also now a grown man, and obviously didn’t consider his former wife his rapist, even if the law and society say she was.
While I agree that what Mary Kay Letourneau did was very wrong, she did do her time in prison. And even though she went to prison, Vili Fualaau was waiting for her when she got out. They were married for twelve years, divorcing only because Vili wanted to start a marijuana farm and couldn’t legally do so with a convicted felon as his spouse. My thinking is that whatever I might think of Mary Kay Letourneau’s actions are secondary to what her victim thinks. She paid her debt to society, and she clearly had people in her life who loved her, including her ex husband. Although Mary Kay is dead, those people are still left behind and were grieving their loss. They deserve respect and sympathy, even if Mary Kay might not have.
The same thing goes for anyone convicted of a crime. Very few people have no one in the world. Very few people are so awful that there isn’t someone who appreciates and loves them. So when I express sorrow for someone who’s done bad things dying or being injured, it’s not just for that person. It’s also for the innocent people who love them regardless of any negative things they’ve said or done. I feel like I should be allowed to do that without being labeled, chastised, or canceled. In a different era, I probably would be. Or, at least I might have a chance to explain, right?
I can understand why people cancel each other. Nowadays, we’re all bombarded with so much information and relationships tend to be wider and more shallow, rather than deep and narrow. We live in an era where it’s easy to become acquaintances, especially online, but it’s hard to become real friends. And so, when someone is annoying or upsetting, we can just change the channel, as it were, or click the unfriend or even the block button. I’ve done it myself a few times, although I usually do it to strangers before I’ll do it to people I’ve interacted with regularly. I usually don’t unfriend people for being offensive unless they are repeat offenders and I’ve asked them to stop at least once. A person I’ve actually met really has to upset me before I ostracize them completely by hitting the block button. I’ve never done it to a relative, although some of my relatives have done it to me. The vast majority of the people I unfriend get dropped because I don’t actually know them or speak to them, they’ve gone inactive for a long time, or they’re dead. I reserve blocking for people who won’t leave me alone, people who are stalkers or creepy, or people who have been deliberately hurtful.
I know a lot of people are perfectly fine with calling people out and “canceling them”, as if they’ve never done anything wrong themselves. But personally, I find it a very disturbing phenomenon. I’m a big believer in allowing people to be heard, even if what they have to say isn’t something we want to hear. Sometimes unpleasant messages have truths within them, and sometimes group think can obscure humanity. For instance, some years ago, I watched a Disney propaganda film about the rise of Hitler. It’s called Education for Death.
At about five minutes into the above video, we see a schoolboy named Hans in Germany being taught about a fox hunting and killing a rabbit. Everyone in the class is all about the fox killing the rabbit except the little boy, who expresses sympathy for the creature. He’s ostracized and ridiculed for having a different viewpoint, so under tremendous peer pressure, he eventually loses his natural regard for the rabbit and joins his classmates in their bloodthirsty enthusiasm for killing. The narrator says sarcastically, “Hans has now come around to the ‘correct’ Nazi way of thinking.”
Now, I am not in any way comparing what happened to me to Naziism. What I’m trying to point out is that respectful discussions and sharing different perspectives are good things. It’s useful and helpful to talk about different views. I see nothing wrong with recognizing something good in someone’s actions, even if that person has been “canceled” or is not politically correct or popular. Like I said, I don’t think there are too many people who are truly all good or all bad. I do think “all bad” people exist, but my opinion is that there are very few of them. And a person should have the chance to redeem themselves, if they can. It’s not a good thing for someone to go through life being hated by everyone.
I also think hating people takes a lot of energy. There are a couple of people in the world that I can honestly say that I legitimately have no regard for at all. I have my personal reasons for feeling that way about them, though, and I don’t expect others to feel the same way I do. Having negative feelings about those people who actually harmed me in a personal way already takes a lot of energy. I don’t have the energy to spare to also hate politicians with whom I disagree. Trump, of course, is a different matter. I probably do legitimately hate him, and I make no apologies for that. But I’m not going to kick people out of my life for disagreeing with me. If I did that, I’d never speak to my family again.
My former friend apparently loathes Mike Pence. She has her reasons for loathing him. I probably even agree with her for feeling the way she does. But prior to the other day, it was not something we’d ever discussed. I can’t say we really discussed it the other day, either, since she quickly got pissed off and split. She just expected me to share her view and canceled me when I didn’t. Or, at least that’s what I concluded, since she didn’t talk to me about what had upset her so much. And I was left realizing that this person I had once respected, and had even told that I respected, had no respect whatsoever for me.
I know some people will tell me I’m too sensitive. In fact, when I posted a thought about this situation, I got a comment from someone who acted as an apologist and gave me advice. Advice was not really what I was seeking, though. What I was doing was requesting that those who are too immature to have a respectful discussion to go ahead and unfriend me now. Because that’s not how I “do” real friendship– at least not with people I actually know and care about offline. And I am not going to let anyone tell me how to think or what I can or can’t say. I’d rather have fewer real friends than a bunch of fakes clogging up my feed.
If I want to commend Mike Pence for following the law and showing dignity at the inauguration, that should be my privilege, especially on my space. Real friends will let me say that and have a rational and respectful discussion if they disagree with me. They won’t flip their hair, call me names, or cancel me for voicing my opinion. And if that’s the kind of person you are, as my ex friend said, “count me out.”
In other news… yesterday, we found out Arran has a mast cell tumor. He has to have surgery on Monday. Here we go again.