I consider myself an empathetic and compassionate human. And as an empathetic and compassionate human, I find myself biting my tongue often. You see, some of you out there are pretty damned open with your hate-filled opinions and being empathetic and compassionate means that although I want to call you out on your bullshit, I also don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. And although I hold back, and yes, I hold way the hell back, I all too often find myself getting called out for being outspoken. For not responding to your asshattery with a simple agreement to your shit.
Recently I had the opportunity to hang out and have a couple beers with a really close friend. Here’s a paraphrase of how the conversation began:
Me: How was your trip to Georgia?
Him: Fine. Although, Atlanta is fucked up and Rayshard was asking to be killed and I hate liberals and am now voting for Trump.
There was obviously a lot more to it, but the point here is that he started our conversation on an incredibly angry tone. His opener with me, an outspoken apolitical being, was full political discourse, through incredibly partisan rhetoric. He began a conversation with me, a close personal friend whom he knows has different opinions on this sort of thing, by showing a severe lack of empathy and compassion and made the death of a man into a discussion about “libtards”. He followed all of this up with a statement I’ve heard way too many times over the past weeks about how although he believes George Floyd was murdered, he thinks the rioting and violence which followed shows how worthless this movement is.
And I, blood streaming down my throat from how hard I’m biting my tongue, hoping we can get through the political part of our conversation so we can discuss the important topic of the Rockin’ Dopsie being on television with Fogharty, did what I do every time I get into one of these conversations. I tried to highlight the motivations of the people he was denigrating. Things like how although Rayshard might not have been blameless in his death, he also wasn’t the professional in the situation. That although I hadn’t watched the video because I can’t deal with that type of stuff emotionally, the entire discussion around his death is about how things could and should have gone differently if he was first approached by a kind-faced social worker who was looking to help instead of a weapon-wielding officer of the law who embodies the idea of fear for many black Americans. That the very idea that it’s possible to commit suicide by police should be indicative of there being a problem. I noted how those who were rioting in the streets of Atlanta and Minneapolis and so many cities across our nation were, first, reportedly being manipulated by white nationalist groups like Identify Evropa, but second, were people who have spent their lives feeling stepped on and that it might be understandable they would have finally reached the boiling point where they feel violence really is the only answer they have left.
Although I didn’t particularly enjoy the conversation, because heated political discussions are quite possibly my least favorite way to enjoy a beer, I thought it was amicable enough. I bit my tongue and didn’t tell him how stupid I think it is that he has decided to vote for Trump because he’s mad at the Democrats for jilting Bernie again. I didn’t tell him how I feel about any of this. I simply attempted to explain the existing alternative viewpoints and left it at that.
This part of the conversation wasn’t long. We had at least an hour of politics-free discourse which I had found to be a completely pleasant and awesome time talking about our lives.
I left him saying the same thing I try to say to all friends nowadays, even though it’s incredibly awkward. “I love you.” Because I do. And I did.
Two days later, at 9am, I received a text message from this same friend with a picture of a NASCAR garage with a comment about how all NASCAR garages have nooses (yes, I know this isn’t true) and how the media is trying to start a race war.
9am, I’m exhausted from a lack of sleep the previous night, and I’m met with an angry rant about fake news. We hadn’t discussed this particular incident. I had only become aware of the incident after they had already determined this noose was highly unlikely to be a hate crime.
I spent some time considering whether or not to respond, realizing he was baiting me into another angry discussion, but for some reason I felt that it would be mean of me not to reply. I responded lightly with an agreement that SJWs can be hypersensitive, but that I didn’t think the media really needed to do much to start a race war, considering our current and historical racial situation. Many messages followed about the fake news media and how he’s voting for Trump and all I could think of was how tired I was and how I should probably take a nap. And I still didn’t really know what he was hoping to get out of this discussion that he kept pressing for. So, with his repeated message of “I’m voting for Trump”, I responded by saying that if he was looking for my blessing, he wasn’t going to get it because I consider Trump to be an undeniably evil man.
I got some more Fox News-approved sentences from him before I got the following heart-wrencher:
“I haven’t really enjoyed the last few visits with you.”
He went on to talk about how he feels like I’ve been trying to compete with him, flaunting my successes over him, about a dumb joke I make about his sister from time to time, and, most importantly, about how he felt like I was calling him a racist during the conversations he had been pursuing these last few days.
I immediately started shaking. I think partially in rage that although I had been biting my tongue, it turned out that once again I had offended someone, but more because this is a person I absolutely love and he was telling me how I made him feel terrible.
I apologized. Unconditionally. The sister thing wasn’t a mean joke, but if he took offense to it, it’s on me and I apologized for that. The success-flaunting I also unconditionally apologized for, even though although I feel blessed, I don’t feel successful and absolutely couldn’t care less if I’m more or less successful than anyone else. The comments on competition sounded as though they were with regard to our political discussions, which, as noted above, I don’t state my personal opinions on, so competing isn’t really my bag, but I still apologized unconditionally because, ultimately, whether or not I was actively doing anything of the sort, that’s still what he took out of the conversations and I have to accept at least partial credit on that occurring.
I even apologized unconditionally for his feeling that I was calling him a racist, even though, as noted above, my entire piece was simply showcasing the other viewpoint from his own. I expressed zero opinions (until the Trump thing in the text) and declared minimal judgments, and certainly didn’t call him a racist, because although I think he’s misled, I don’t think he’s actively a racist. But I still apologized.
While I’m never going to pretend that I’m completely blameless in any situation, the reality here is that I bit my tongue because I didn’t want to lose my friend.
Yet, the more this bounces around my brain, the more I wish I hadn’t. While shaking because I was afraid I had hurt our friendship, rage filled me and told me how I should burn all the bridges with anyone who could make me feel this way after hijacking our discussion with messages of anger and hatred. I was sad, yes, but I was also fucking pissed. And the more pissed I got, the more I came to the conclusion that although I’m not completely blameless (in anything), most of this situation was caused by whatever shit he brought into our conversation from other parts of his own life.
A highlight of the many reasons in which I’ve come to this determination is that he offered right off the bat, while originally telling me how unhappy I’ve made him, by stating how he didn’t get these same feelings when talking to my wife. My wife does not bite her tongue and is absolutely on the opposite side of all of this bullshit than he is. She will call him out on everything. I’m pretty sure she’s done everything but call him a racist in a number of conversations over the years. Additionally, one of the conversations he referenced was one my wife was present for and whenever my wife is present for political discourse, I step back because she can appreciate a heated political discourse, while I absolutely don’t. The point here is that he took these feelings away from a conversation in which I did the ultimate version of biting my tongue: shutting the fuck up.
When I started to unpack all of this in my mind, all I could think about was how much I was just ready to shut it all down. I was pissed that I was apologizing for something I was quickly understanding I had no control over. I was being attacked because of his own insecurities.
And in this moment, I, for possibly the first time in my life, really wanted to stop biting my tongue and burn the whole relationship to the ground by telling him what I really felt, because although he may have come away from our conversation feeling like I was acting superior to him, I’ve spent countless conversations with him fighting my base instincts and allowing him to spout terrible things at me while I smile and pretend that I don’t think he has lost his ability to feel any form of compassion. He forces these conversations on me nearly every single time we talk, and nearly every single time we talk I tell him how I hate these conversations. And then, right out of the gate, he opens our conversation with the least empathetic things he could and now has the audacity to tell me I was the asshole because I presented an opposing opinion? He politically abused me and I just sat there kindly and took it and now I’m the problem?
I’m never the one to want to make waves, but some of you people out there are fucking drowning me with your fucking waves.
And so I’m done biting my tongue. You want to bring this bullshit to me, force your opinions on me? Here’s your disclaimer: Be prepared for me to open up to you fully, because I simply can’t do this any longer.
And here’s what I’ve been wanting to say ever since the first person told me they think the people rioting are stupid. Please take offense. At least this time I’ll deserve it.
You don’t think there’s reason to be rioting in the streets in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder? You fucktards are willing to tell me that you saw a murder, you’re aware of the attempts to cover it up, you know that the only reason Floyd will see any form of justice is because civilians took the initiative to tape the interaction, and, based on how you respond to taking down Confederate statues, you’re aware of our nation’s history of exploiting and killing and stepping on black Americans for the last 400 years, but you simply can’t understand how they might get pissed off enough to burn down a Target?
Like, let’s ignore for the moment the fucking fact that white supremacists incited these riots and pre-set bricks and explosives in neighborhoods to help start this shit. I don’t even care. Because in my mind we should ALL be really fucking pissed and should burn down the whole system. The only fucking reason George Floyd is getting justice is because civilians taped the incident. If it weren’t for regular people with cameras on their phones seeing something and deciding they needed to take action, this man would have just been murdered without justice like way too many black Americans today.
They should be and are rightfully pissed. Mad as hell. And you’re saying they should just continue taking it?
Just days before the protests of Floyd’s murder, white people were protesting that they had to wear masks and couldn’t get their hair cut. They carried assault rifles. Their protest met no police resistance. The folks protesting Floyd’s murder didn’t come with weapons, but they were met with them. Tear gas, taser guns, rubber bullets… I shudder to think of what would have happened if they had protested the same way as those who can’t handle wearing a piece of fabric on their face when they go to Target. Those white people were pissed off about being slightly uncomfortable and brought guns to talk about it, but the black people who were scared for their lives and wanted everyone to know about it were the ones met with violence.
Fuck you and your unhappiness that these people were burning things to the ground. We have a system in place which does an amazing job of brushing our systemic racism under the rug and these people, whether or not manipulated into it by white nationalists, found another way to make their voices heard.
And I stand by it.
I’m a fucking pacifist and I stand by this violent response.
Because these people, our American brothers and sisters, have been biting their tongues for too long. They’ve held peaceful protests and still they are killed in the streets. Peaceful protesters were run over by police vehicles! They have played the game the way it’s supposed to be played and they’re still met with hostility and anger and intentional misunderstanding of what they’re trying to say. They’ve bitten their tongues for centuries by simply not killing every last one of us white idiots. Based on my own response to my current situation with my friend, I honestly don’t know how they’ve done it for so long.
Burn the shit down.
Burn it all down.
You pretend to not understand, but if there’s one thing about these protests I understand the most, it’s setting fire to these buildings. What fucking better way to get white people to pay attention than to burn down their Targets?
Fuck you. You intentionally try to not understand what these people are going through. You hide behind comments like “it’s less racist now than it used to be”. Great. Fucking great. How much racism should we be cool with? Is there a cut off point for deaths of unarmed black men before it gets to be too much again? We’re good because we’ve flattened the curve?
We, as a people, have lost every fucking ability to feel any sort of empathy for other people. If it’s different from our life, then fuck it, our life isn’t that great either, you know.
Like, seriously? All Lives Matter? Yes, they do. We absolutely need ALL LIVES to care about the fucking black lives that are being killed by those very people we pay to serve and protect us. Actually, if it helps, yes, the police should not be killing unarmed people, no matter the color. So, yes, all lives do matter. Stop the police brutality, regardless of the fucking color, if that helps you see past your stupid fucking racist bullshit.
Sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, they are fucking dying. Because of their skin color. Because of racists. And regardless of whether we are less racist today than yesterday, we are still racist and we as a global community should have a zero tolerance policy for racism, especially if that racism is causing people to fucking die.
So fuck you.
Fuck you for not caring about these poor people whose lives are cut short because of our “less racist” present. Fuck you for all the people who will still die because you refuse to give a fuck about someone other than yourself, especially if that person might have burned down your Target while being absolutely outraged that someone was killed by people who are paid to serve and protect us.
I’m losing my empathy for those who refuse to try to understand. I’m losing my compassion for those who simply choose to ignore the plight of our fellow men and women on this planet. Maybe you’re not racist. But you sure as fuck might be.
And because I’m setting the tongue loose, I’ll forgo my normal sign off with a new one.