In some family cultures, maintaining the peace is paramount. Avoiding a confrontation with a gay-bashing stepgrandfather who utters homophobic slurs at a family wedding is simply being considerate. Allowing bigots to spread their own personal brand of hate while politely ignoring their narrow-minded intolerance is being respectful.
And, when a newlywed starts sharing hate propaganda with her in-laws on facebook and blithely asks everyone on her friends list to Like and Share, then it's up to every member of the family to slap on a muzzle and protect her. Meanwhile, another single mother with minimal insurance or an intinerant worker struggling with English faces a society that judges indiscriminately and tolerates everyday hate messages with polite indignation.
"A peace built on silence & censorship is a dumb peace."
I wish I'd said it, but this was a response from advice columnist, Ester Bloom, in answer to one of her readers who was worried about confronting bigoted relatives. She points out that his concerns are driven by fear, the fear of causing ripples and losing favor with family members. Emotional blackmail is the weapon of choice among families who pride themselves in eternal togetherness.
The problem is, it doesn't always work.
Not with independently-minded mature adults, anyway. There is no real peace in an environment of fear, especially one that protects bigotry and social messages of hate. As Ester points out, the peace is already broken by the person who said something hurtful and offensive in public. And, it was their choice to put it out there.
Silenced by Argument
So, we must each choose how to respond. Which has more value, family harmony or being true to yourself? If family harmony rules, then be prepared to keep your opinions to yourself. Plain and simple, zip it and let the bigotry fly.
If you choose to take a stand on your principles, then be prepared to wrap anything you say in a soft baby blanket because people who spread bias and intolerance and those who protect the status quo don't like to be challenged. It hurts their feelings. It's okay for bigots to be hurtful, but if you respond, you had better do it nicely so as not to offend—especially if you're a woman.
"Bigotry and intolerance, silenced by argument endeavors to silence by persecution — in old days by fire and sword, in modern days by the tongue." ~Charles Simmons, author
And, while you're politely asking the bigots to pipe down, it helps to devalue the sacrifices of the civil rights humanitarians who fought bigotry with angry indignation and fierce conviction.
It's just easier if we don't think about their sacrifices.
I made the choice to stand up to bigotry a long time ago. My core personal principles were formed during the Civil Rights Movement, the Sexual Revolution, the Vietnam War, the Kennedy era, Women's Lib, Gay Rights, Kent State, the Space Race, and Watergate.
The ferocity and passion of these social movements set the tone for the things that still matter to me the most.
I firmly believe that normalizing bigotry is the first step toward dehumanizing the most vulnerable among us. I am weary of facebook posts that promote hate toward any group. Obamacare haters, gun-toting nutjobs who kill lions, whatever it is...I'm tired of it.
I AM ANGRY that it still happens, and I am disappointed in any member of my family who doesn't have the sense to know better.
I know where I stand with those who protect the newest bigot in the family. If anyone needs me, I'll be under the bus while the newlyweds dodge their adult responsibilities and run to their overprotective parents the next time anyone challenges their intolerance.
It all started with this original letter-to-the-editor written by Roger Starner Jones, MD, a physician who specializes in emergency medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The letter was published by the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion Ledger on 23 August 2009.
Score one for another right-wing Internet meme:
WHY PAY FOR THE CARE OF THE CARELESS?
Here's to a sane & peaceful week!