Since very early in 2016, I’ve lost a lot of friends. A LOT. Of ‘friends.’ They’ve all been white. And they’ve all been straight/cishet people. And they’ve all passive aggressively tried to make me feel guilty for ‘cutting them out of my life’ over something ‘trivial’ like politics. I mean, I am talking more than a dozen people I regularly talked to…I haven’t spoken to them at all since February-December 2016.
And here’s why.
Politics isn’t just another survey question answered. It’s not ‘what’s your favorite color?’ It’s not ‘Coke or Pepsi?’ It’s the basis for how you think about the world and how it should function; specifically how you think about, care about, and treat other people. Politics is very telling about a person. It alerts me about personal priorities and values more than anything else does (and some things can be indicators of this other than politics…religion, media consumption and taste, formal and informal education, other cultural training…but politics involves and overlaps all of those things too, and it’s a greater, more certain indicator than all of those things). Politics are only trivial matters when you’re a member of the most privileged group, so any political decision by the established ruling class is unlikely to negatively affect your life in any way, anyway and/or 2. you don’t give a damn about any other people.
I didn’t rashly cut people out of my life for one trivial reason. I stopped associating with those people after trying to calmly explain why I can’t casually accept racism or sexism or violence or homophobia or other form of xenophobia, and pointing out that they were at least tacitly endorsing and condoning that stuff. There are more than a dozen people who claimed (and still claim I’m sure) to not be racist/misogynist/a proponent of toxic masculinity/religiously intolerant/transphobic/whatever, but they openly support(ed) someone who clearly IS those things? I just can’t handle it. Our value and priority systems are totally at odds. It’s not ‘Coke or Pepsi.’ I hate Pepsi. I’ll say that. I think it tastes like cough medicine. I know there are people out there (I’m friends with many of them…my brother married a girl who thinks this) who feel exactly the same way about Coke, which I admit to having a low grade addiction to (caffeine free Coke Zero anyway). But I can totally go hang out with a Pepsi drinker and they can hang out with me. I can even go to a restaurant with them that only offers Pepsi or they can go to a restaurant with me that only offers Coke and we’ll just get water or tea or lemonade or something and enjoy each other. Politics isn’t a simple choice. It’s an encompassing treatise on a person’s value and priority system and how they view their own and other people’s place in the world. It really makes a difference in the lives of every human you can affect with your views and your vote. Politics is important and touches every part of life.
There’s a parable I’ve heard a few times that goes something like this…
If there are 10 people sitting at a table and a racist/sexist/homophobe/fascist/etc. sits down at that table, and no one gets up, now there are 11 racists/sexists/homophobes/fascists/etc.
So I get up from that table; I leave that party. And then I stop going to parties at all if I know racists and homophobes, etc. are going to be there. And then I stop getting invited to parties. And that’s fine. I can’t ‘set aside’ THESE differences to grill some burgers out in the back yard or go out to a nice lunch or watch some sports or a movie marathon or swim in your pool and bring that awesome baked macaroni and cheese I make. I can’t do it. I’m not going to be at a table with racists. I’m not going to be in the room, laughing and smiling with people I know hate other people, just because a party host or a lunch organizer wants to pretend social justice politics don’t matter. If that makes me cold and a fickle friend, then so be it.
There is a popular argument thrown at people like me often (it’s been served to me personally many times) that progressives claim to be so tolerant, but we can’t accept intolerance (group discrimination and hate). That argument makes no sense to me, personally, and I won’t get into the advanced philosophy and political theory of it here (that’s what my college degree is in…Political Science) because, ‘I know politics bore you…’ but if you are interested in going deep into that kind of thing, look up Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper (Open Society and Its Enemies), among others. The information is out there and my author blog isn’t a scholarly political source. And I want to make the duel points that 1. I DO have a summa cum laude degree in Political Science and 2. politics affect everyone; so everyone gets to have a voice. Even homemakers who write love stories.
And there are so many people who claim to want peace and peaceful protest and disagreement (but what they really want is quiet and blind obedience so their own peace and privilege isn’t disturbed) and will tell progressives like me to ‘fight hate with love.’
I do work very hard to fight hate with love. But there are some major misconceptions about that phrase. First…
It’s not a loving act for me to sit down at a table or attend a party with hateful people.
The love I’m fighting hate with is not directed at the haters. That’s totally pointless and a waste of good love. I’ve tried fighting hate that way and it doesn’t work. There is no amount of love or sacrifice or logic or appealing to empathy or capitulation that satisfies a hater. They argue in bad faith. They are committed to their intolerance no matter what I say or do, so…I direct my love to the people being hated. That’s how I fight hate with love.
“I won’t stand here listening to you and your racist friend.”
I’m getting up from that table; I’m leaving that party. I don’t care, beyond being sad that I’ve been repeatedly chosen against in favor of racists and other openly hateful people, that you’ve stopped inviting me to parties. I don’t want to go to parties to associate with racists.
Maybe readers don’t want to read about my thoughts and feelings about current events right now and maybe–another popular slogan I hear often directed at me and many other people–you’d rather I ‘stick to writing sappy love stories’ and talking about being an anxious introvert in funny, cute ways. I get it. I’d like to get back to that too. But I can’t at the moment. Because I’m doing my best to not be a hypocrite and to fight the hate I see with love by loving the people being hated. That’s how you’re supposed to fight hate with love, I think. It’s not loving the haters. That’s wasteful and useless. And love isn’t inactive or silent or complicit…it’s not wasteful and useless.