Almost 5 years ago, when people’s true personal beliefs began revealing themselves in the political candidates and viewpoints they openly supported, I began to pull away from people who showed me who they were wasn’t compatible with my own personal life philosophy, moral code, and set of priorities. And a few of them reached out to me early on when they noticed the change in association. I told them that openly supporting hate and ignorance and malicious greed was something I couldn’t overlook in a personal relationship. Every one of them said the phrase, ‘But you know me…’ to defend themselves.
I know what they meant was that we’d been friends for years, or we are first cousins, or we worked together on that NHS project in 11th grade or something. That we’ve eaten pizza together or gone to a high school football game together or like the same college basketball team. And that those things…the time ‘known’ or random and substance-less activities or interests should eclipse the open endorsement of callousness and cruelty. They meant I should know, based on taking a class together 10-20 years ago or taking our kids to the park together when they were babies was proof that just because they campaign, promote, and vote for clearly racist, sexist, and so many other clearly harmful policies that THEY aren’t really a racist, sexist, etc. PERSON. ‘But you know me…’
The truth was, I didn’t know them. You can only know someone as much as they want to be known; as much as they show you. I don’t show most of myself to most people, so there are a lot of folks out there who mistakenly think they ‘know’ me from watching a couple movies together or ordering the same thing at the Wendy’s drive through once too. Social media drops a lot of people’s guards, so they show more of themselves than maybe they realized or wanted to, and open political affiliation does that too. I’ve written a couple of posts here in this past, hardship-heavy year about how a person’s political stances are, in my opinion, the most revealing and accurate indicators about the kind of person someone is. So when you say Beethoven/Socrates 2024 (or whoever), and I look those folks up and see what they say and how they act and the platform of policy they promote, I know a lot about you. Way more about you than what your favorite band is or how you take your coffee. Politics shows your core as a human being. It touches everything else in life.
So I told them, ‘I thought I knew you. Maybe I still do. SHOW me you’re not the same as the person you plan to vote for and the platform you’re promoting. SHOW me the you I thought I knew is the real one; not the one you’re showing me now. SHOW me I’m wrong.’
But none of them did. They all, to a person, showed me I was right. They showed me that I didn’t really know them before. But I know them now. NOW, I know them.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of reaction in the past week or so from folks who want to separate themselves from extreme political action and exonerate themselves from any complicity and wrong-doing…who also want to call people like me, who long for accountability…divisive and uncivil and mean for using words like ‘racist’ or ‘liar’ or ‘ignorant.’
Telling the truth isn’t uncivil and mean, and it shouldn’t be divisive. It doesn’t have to be.
If you are a privileged person who feels unfairly wronged by a statement or a word, prove the person who used the statement or word is wrong regarding you. Show them you’re not a racist, you’re not a liar, you’re willing to admit when you are wrong or have more to learn, and are willing to do the work to learn new things from varied sources. Show them they don’t really know you.
I’m an eternal, maybe even a delusional optimist, so I’m still holding out hope that people I thought I knew will prove me wrong about who they are someday, and I’ll feel safe and happy rebuilding connections with them. But for now, until I’ve been shown the difference between their vocal beliefs and voting records and who they want to be seen as and the words they’d like people to use to describe them, I have to go by what I know. They were correct, in a way, when they said, ‘But you know me…’ as I pulled away from them over the past five years. Now I do them. They made themselves known.