I had several answers—all of them true:
- It takes a lot of time and energy to try to educate someone on these complex topics, and that’s time and energy I will never get back and which I’d rather spend on writing or editing my own stuff.
- In my experience, very few people actually listen to your attempt to explain such things, they instead become defensive—sometimes extremely aggressively defensive. So you’re asking me to put myself into a fight.
- I’ve been explaining these things my whole life—just look through this blog!—and it’s exhausting. Please refer to the first bullet.
- One reason it is so exhausting to try to answer is because of what Foz Meadows once described as onion questions: “seemingly simple questions that can’t possibly be answered to either your satisfaction or your interlocutor’s because their ignorance of concepts vital to whatever you might say is so lacking, so fundamentally incorrect, that there’s no way to answer the first point without first explaining eight other things in detail. There are layers to what’s being misunderstood, to what’s missing from the conversation, and unless you’ve got the time and inclination to dig down to the onion-core of where your perspectives ultimately diverge, there’s precious little chance of the conversation progressing peacefully.”
- Thousands of other people have been explaining all of these things. There is no shortage of information about these things out there. I’ve educated myself on all sorts of things that don’t directly affect my life, why can’t they do that, too?
However, K. Tempest Bradford recently shared a link to a post she wrote on this topic a few years ago, Pearls Before Swine – Or, Why I Bother and she makes some good points. I’d read the post before, but had forgotten. In the post she’s referring specifically to a long article that astronomer Phil Plait wrote, attempting to answer questions from people who don’t believe in evolution and so forth:
“I’m fairly sure that the reason the creationists in the Buzzfeed article asked such ragingly stupid questions is because no one has ever bothered to answer them seriously before. I know why that might be. Like I said, the questions are really stupid.
“So stupid they can inspire rage. Or stupid enough that it makes people shake their heads and think This Person is Not Even Worth It. Not everyone has the spoons to deal with crap like that.
“If one does have the patience to answer and explain in a real way it helps both the person asking the stupid question and it helps people who have to deal with the kind of people who ask those stupid questions. They can either offer up the knowledge as they understand it thanks to the helpful answers and info behind those links or they can say: “This post over here answers all of that and more, go read it and stop talking to me.” Drop that link and mambo, people!”
And it reminded me of a recent exchange with a friend who shared something with me that was chockful of misconceptions and concealed bigoted assumptions. And I decided that his friendship was probably strong enough to deal with the discussion, so I wrote about a thousand word email explaining the misconceptions, false equivalencies, and so forth. Even though he is a good friend and generally a nice guy, I have to admit I was a little worried he would be upset. Instead, he replied thoughtfully and realized, having read my explanation, that there were some things that he had been taking in and just accepting in various videos and articles and such that were similarly full of false equivalencies, straw man arguments, and so forth.
So, I’m reminded that not everyone gets defensive. Also, as Bradford observes: “Other people have come to me over the years, usually at conventions, and told me how they, at first, thought I was SO WRONG about race and the community and so angry… But then their anger and defensiveness went away and they pondered and listened and read other people saying the same things and finally came to a better understanding.”
I’m not going to go back and unblock any of the people I blocked this week and attempt to re-engage. I am going to think about whether I could keep a list of handy links to certain blog posts or articles on topics that come up again and again and share those links when it might help.
Weekend Update 1/12/2019: The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but Alex Jones, they grind on you!
Families of Sandy Hook shooting victims win legal victory against InfoWars, Alex Jones. The families haven’t won their lawsuits, yet, but this is an important step in the trials: ALEX JONES MUST REVEAL INFOWARS DATA TO SANDY HOOK FAMILIES AS THEY WIN LEGAL VICTORY.
In case you don’t remember: the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred back in 2012 were 20 six- and seven-year-old children (along with six teachers) were murdered by an angry 20-year-old. Alex Jones used to be a radio host (his show is carried only on the internet now) of a thing called Info Wars where he spouts all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories, while peddling gross survivalist food and other shit to his gullible (and fearful) listeners. And one of the conspiracy theories he pushed hard on his show for years was that Sandy Hook never happened, that no children actually died, and that the grieving parents people saw on the news were all actors.
And the issue is, that a bunch of people who are just as dangerous as the original shooter, believed him. They began harassing the parents, threatening them and their surviving children. They staked out the graves of the buried children and harassed anyone that visited those graves. The families have had to move and try to rebuild their lives several times because of the evil, deplorable followers of this greedy, evil, deplorable man.
And so the fact that some of the families have finally found a court that will hear their case is pretty awesome. I hope he winds up penniless and on the street.
I also wish more of the idiots who have harassed the families were sitting in jail, but I’ll settle for Jones being ruined.
Once again some news stories either broke after I had finished this week’s Friday Five or new developments related to stories I’ve posted about before. And these are stories I want to make a bit more commentary on than I usually do with the Friday Fives. So, let’s jump into these things…
First, the shutdown is still a thingL Pelosi and Schumer Meet With Trump – Say He Vows to Keep Government Shutdown for ‘Years’ Over Wall Funding. And later in the day Trump confirmed his words. This is bad. There are hundreds of thousands of federal employees being forced to work without pay (and they are ordinary people who need to pay rent, buy food for their kids, et cetera), and hundreds of thousands more that have been sent home without pay. ‘I feel used and insulted’: Furloughed IRS employee on CNN shames Trump for treating him like a pawn.
This isn’t just bad for them, it is bad for the economy. What makes the economy work isn’t the giant billion-dollar companies or wealthy investors: it is ordinary people spending money day to day.
And the really insane part is contained in this article: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences. Go read some of those quotes! There are a number of Republican congresspeople quoted who were cheering the shutdown a week ago, who are only now learning that government shutdown means that people who voted for them aren’t getting their foodstamps, or the social security checks, and won’t get tax refunds. There are Trump cabinet officials quoted in there who didn’t understand it.
They didn’t understand that ‘government shutdown’ means that the government shuts down!?!?
It isn’t just Trump who is ignorant and doesn’t know how things work. It’s like half the goddamn Republican party!
The thing is, they can end this. The first deal, the one Trump vetoed a couple of weeks ago, passed the Senate unanimously. The Republican-controlled Senate passed the deal with no wall funding already. Congress can override the President’s veto. Now, since new Congresspeople were sworn in and this is technically a new Congress, I believe that means that they have to first pass the deal again, let him veto it, and then if all the Senators who voted for it before, and a bunch of these Republican Reps in the House who are finally realizing what this means joins the Democrats on the reconsideration, BOOM, veto overridden and government is running again.
I’m going to repeat something that I say from time to time: the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution with the assumption that it is Congress that runs the country. Article I of the Constitution describes the Congress, its powers, its responsibilities, and its limitations. Everything that follows in the Constitution (the Presidency, the Judiciary, the Amendment process, the Bill of Rights) are in relationship to the Congress. The President isn’t supposed to run the country, Congress is. And they can. I realize it means some Republicans (not even half of them—just enough to with the Democrats—reach two-thirds) growing at least a teensy bit of a spine.
I’m not terribly hopeful at the moment, but…
There are some Republicans with spines: Bush speechwriter uses Bible to slap evangelicals for sucking up to ‘unethical and racist’ Trump. Wow, he even understands what the Bible actually says!
“In this struggle, many evangelicals believe they have found a champion in Trump. He is the enemy of their enemies. He is willing to use the hardball tactics of the secular world to defend their sacred interests. In their battle with the Philistines, evangelicals have essentially hired their own Goliath — brutal, pagan, but on their side… A hypocrisy becomes unsustainable. A seed gets planted. And a greater power emerges, revealing new leaders and shaming those who reduce Christianity to a sad and sordid game of thrones.”
I think another point he makes is the most important:
“The employment of an unethical, racist, anti-immigrant, misogynist Giant is not likely to play well with women, minorities and young people, who are likely to equate conservative religion with prejudice for decades to come.”
Honestly, polling information indicates that’s already happened. Which actually gives me a lot of hope.
So I was a little surprised when, several months before the anniversary, some relatives from out there contacted me to invite me to a 60th Anniversary party, just before Christmas. I said that I would have to look into travel logistics, but it would be nice to see the old hometown again. The relative in question hoped that I would be able to stay through Christmas and so forth. I made the comment that I wasn’t sure how much time off Michael would be able to take, since he got a lot less paid vacation at his place of work than I did.
I could almost feel the temperature drop on the line. “Oh, no. You can’t bring your friend. You understand, that would really upset everyone.”
“You expect my husband to stay back in a hotel while I’m at the party?”
”No. We expect you to be sensible and leave your friend back in Seattle.”
They then explained (as if I needed to be reminded) that Grandma and Grandpa were elderly and weren’t as open-minded as this relative currently talking to me. They explained how many of the equally elderly siblings of both Grandma and Grandpa were planning to attend. “You can’t expect people their age to put up with… um, well, you know.”
I said that, as a matter of fact, I could expect that. And if my husband wasn’t welcome, than neither was I.
That wasn’t the end of it. Several other relatives called, urging me to come. Reminding me that this might be the last time I could see them, and surely I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life regretting that, just over a silly thing like this? Where was my family loyalty? Where was my Christmas spirit?
It eventually reached the point where I said, rather angrily, “You want me to take several weeks off from work, fly to Salt Lake City, drive 6 hours in a rental car, to attend an anniversary and various other social events, including Christmas all the time pretending that I’m perfectly happy to be spending the holidays 1200 miles away from my husband! If Grandma told you your husband couldn’t come to Christmas dinner, would you go?”
“I’m just saying that your friend doesn’t belong at a family event.”
Recently I shared this story with a couple of friends while we were discussing family issues, and one friend who is ordinarily diplomatic and calm reacted to this part of the tale with a vehement, “F— them! He’s your husband and he’s sweet and smart and gives good hugs!”
And while 17 years ago I didn’t mention the hugs, my final words before hanging up were quite similar.
Seventeen years later, some of those family members still think that asking me to go to all that trouble and expense to be a closeted prop in their fantasy of a perfect 60th Anniversary Party/perhaps Final Extended Family Christmas Reunion was a perfectly reasonable request, and I’m the bad guy for not subjecting myself to that.
And I want to point out, that even after the initial call that ended with me saying that if my husband wasn’t welcome I wasn’t coming, I went ahead and did the research of what it would take to get there, maybe just to attend the party by myself and then come back home to spend Christmas with my husband. That’s why I talked about where I would fly into and how long the rental car drive would be assuming only typical winter driving conditions in the two mountain passes involved in the journey. I also want to point out that before they told me my husband wasn’t welcome, they had already told me that because of my “lifestyle” it was a given that none of the relatives who lived nearby were willing to have me stay in a guest room at their house, so two weeks at a hotel at my own expense was an assumed part of the event.
Despite that, for a while I did consider subjecting myself to at least some of that as a sop toward an illusion of family harmony or something.
So I understand why some people who otherwise appear to be reasonable and even understand what it is like to be part of an oppressed minority, sometimes get up in arms when some of us are perceived as being less than tolerant of other peoples’ intolerance.
People are up in arms about Tucker Carlson Facing Advertising Boycott Over Immigration Comments to the point that supposedly reasonable people, like FiveThirtyEightDotCom’s Nate Silver to say that this is going to end all political discourse. The argument being that if we assume advertisers are endorsing everything that is said on a political analysis show, that soon we will have no actual debates.
I have four initial responses to this so-called argument:
1) Fox News, the network that broadcasts Tucker’s show, doesn’t classify his show as either news or analysis. In official filings with the FCC, in order to avoid what few regulations remain about libel and so forth, Fox News classifies nearly every pundit you have ever heard of as “entertainment.”
2) Tucker is not engaging in political analysis or debate, he is spewing lies (not opinions, lies) and inciting hatred against specific ethnic groups, religious groups, and transgender people. He is not making good faith arguments. To equate his program (and Bill O’Reilly’s whose earlier boycotts are being alluded to by everyone writing to defend Carson) with a serious political analysis program is a false equivalence. Incitement is not analysis. A lie is not a difference of opinion. Saying that some people don’t have a right to exist in our society is not a policy dispute. Locking up children in concentration camps after stealing them from parents who lawfully presented themselves at a border crossing to request entry is not a simple implementation of existing law. For some other analysis on this: Tucker Carson’s Racism is Not ‘Political’.
3) It’s a classic slippery slope argument. It’s the equivalent of saying that charging the alt-right guy with murder after he intentionally drove his car into a crowd and killed an innocent person means that now no one is ever allowed to state an opinion again.
4. It’s hypocrisy. None of these people ever scolded the National Organization of Marriage when they were trying to organize boycotts of companies that extended medical benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, or tried to get shows that included a single queer character canceled. None of these defenders of free speech said that those boycotts would lead to the end of all health benefits or all TV shows and movies. They only come out when it is the proponents of hatred that are threatened with consequences.
And to tie this back to my opening anecdote: here are the parallels.
- My husband isn’t a friend and our life isn’t a lifestyle. He’s my husband. Trying to reclassify him doesn’t change the truth of our relationship.
- Being civil if I bring my husband to a family get-together isn’t a Herculean feat that no one has ever been expected to perform at a family event. Big extended family get-togethers of every family include some people that others present don’t approve of but that makes nice and deals with it. Being disapproved of by half the family is practically the definition of in-law, in some families!
- Bringing my husband to family events isn’t me forcing a political agenda on the family, nor does anyone being civil to him imply that they endorse everything that we believe. Just as Cousin Daisy bringing her husband that thinks the moon landing was faked doesn’t make any of us who are civil to them flat-earthers.
- It’s hypocritical to claim that my declining the “invitation” which excluded not just my husband, but also my true self was the rude act, while the exclusion itself is merely a reasonable request. Yes, it was their party, and they can choose who to invite, but it is also my invitation which I can choose to decline. And while I had to get huffy on the phone, my huffiness was restricted to the relatives who were harassing me after I had already, as politely as possible, declined the invitation.
Which isn’t to say that I believe the exclusionary invitation was the polite or correct thing for them to do in the first place, but no one is required to aid and abet their own denigration. Because it wasn’t just that my husband wasn’t invited, but also that I was expected to effectively go back into the closet for the length of my visit. I was expected to agree that there was something wrong with me, and something wrong with the person that I loved. Further, note that they didn’t just say he wasn’t invited to the party, they were insistent that he was not allowed to accompany me on the trip at all. Think about that, for a moment.
Me not attending the family event (at considerable trouble and expense) was not me abandoning my family. Nor was it a decision I should feel guilt and regret over for the rest of my life. Neither was it an attack on Christmas. Just as declining to be kicked in the teeth is not an assault on the would-be tooth kicker.
Finally, to be clear: when some of us contact companies whose products we use and express our displeasure that their money (money that ultimately comes from us) is being used to spread falsehoods and to incite or excuse violence, we are not telling anyone that they don’t have the right to any opinion that disagrees with us. This isn’t censorship, it is consequences.
Every news site on the web was able to obtain pictures of the suspect’s van because it has been notorious since 2016 in that region. People have been taking pictures of all the hateful stickers plastered on the van and sharing the pics on social media for a couple of years. He is extremely pro-Trump and extremely anti-Obama, anti-immigrant, anti-women’s rights, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Which is exactly what anyone with any sense at all had been saying. Even at least one pundit who usually is virulently pro-Trump that I quoted yesterday: “If your first reaction to some evil person sending bombs to a variety of politicians on one side of the aisle is ‘FALSE FLAG,’ you are officially deranged.”So, yes, the mad bomber is clearly someone who has been taking the many times that Trump has referred to locking up his opponents, encouraged is supporters to assault, suggested that someone should shoot, and so forth and finally tried to act on it. A quick search of images in any search engine using the suspects name will turn up pictures of him at Trump rallies, holding up pro-Trump signs, wearing one of those damn MAGA hats and so forth. I’m not linking or posting to any of those because, frankly, I think people who commit these kinds of crimes also get off on the attention afterward. But there are things to know about him: Suspected Mad Bomber Cesar Sayoc likes Trump, bodybuilding, scantily clad women; hates Democrats, Clintons, Obamas, immigrants. Scroll to the end of that article for a list of the many times that the suspect has been arrested in the past, always getting fines and probation, even when he threatened to blow up the local utility and kill thousands of people the second time! So, I’m not surprised that this evil man was on some watch lists. And based on how incoherent and badly spelled his many anti-immigrant and anti-progressive rants on line are, I’m not surprised that he left enough evidence on those packages for officials to trace back to him.
But don’t let any one paint him as an anomaly or a nut job. Remind people of the facts: Study shows two-thirds of U.S. terrorism tied to right-wing extremists. Two-thirds of the terrorist acts that happen in the U.S. are by republican supporters who aren’t immigrants and aren’t muslim.
- The suspect is a native born U.S. citizen.
- The suspect is registered Republican.
- The suspect has proudly declared himself not just a Veteran for Trump, but a supporter of many of the most extreme Republican policies.
- The suspect has been publicly calling for and echoing Trump’s calls for violence against liberals, immigrants, and so forth.
Make America hate again: When political rhetoric turns violent . And the blame needs to be laid at the feed of Trump and all the Republican politicians and rightwing pundits who have been fanning the flames of hate for years and years.
And in case you have forgotten how many times that Trump has fanned those flames this year: This montage of Trump calling for violence shows him as a stupid thug rather than the president .
Before I get further, let me get a couple of disclaimers out of the way: I have considered myself an ex-Baptist and an ex-Christian for a long time, so some people will want to dismiss anything I say on these topics out of hand. On the other hand, I learned my deep sense of social justice from that church and more specifically their holy book. I was the kind of nerd who read the Bible, on my own, cover-to-cover more than once (and had rather large swaths of it memorized). I have often said I didn’t leave the church, the church drove me (a gay man) away.
One of the big problems I had, again and again, was the many times that teachers and leaders in the church would insist that god’s love and mercy were unconditional—and then they would lay out a whole bunch of conditions that one must meet to earn that love. At first they said you had to believe in him order to get his love and mercy. And don’t forget obey him, or you won’t receive his love. And obey him in the right way, not the way other churches say to do it, or you won’t receive his love. And ignore these parts of the holy book, but these other parts you must interpret exactly as we say, or you won’t receive his love.
That’s an awful lot of conditions one must meet to qualify for supposedly unconditional divine love.
It’s not just unconditional divine love that the fundamentalist evangelicals don’t understand. They have a similar misapprehension of civil rights. Tony Perkins heads to Fox News to defend Trump administration’s latest attack on trans rights. This takes a little bit to unpack. If you missed the news this weekend, the New York Times got hold of a memo from the department of Health and Human Services that outlines how the government could erase all trans rights: ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration. More details became available quickly thereafter: The Trump Administration Wants to Define Gender as Biological Sex at Birth.
An important clue in this memo is the assertion that previous definitions of sex “allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”
Tony Perkins mention above is the leader of the Family Research Council, an evangelical fundamentalist hate group that spends all its time an energy not on helping families, but rather on attacking gay rights and transgender rights and so forth. And he has made a very similar argument for years: gay, lesbian, and trans people don’t deserve civil rights protections.
Which means he doesn’t understand what a civil right is: rights aren’t deserved. You have them because you exist, period. They aren’t privileges. The Declaration of Independence referred to rights as “inalienable”—they can’t be transferred or removed. We can argue about what is or isn’t a right, but not who has them. Everyone has them. The moment you argue that some categories of people shouldn’t have their rights protected, well, that’s taking you a very long way down the fascist road.
And it isn’t something that Christians should be fighting for. They are commanded to love everyone, including their enemies. And as the Sermon on the Mount makes clear, love isn’t just about warm fuzzy feelings, it’s action. Love means lifting people up. Love means standing up for people. Love means doing good for people who disagree with you. Love means not just taking care of your own, but taking care of everyone who needs help.
Perkins and his ilk justify their opposition to the rights of transgender people by frequently making the claim that the Bible clear says that there are only two genders. It is true that the Bible frequently refers to two genders, but none of those references say that those two are the only possibilities, nor does it give a definition of those genders. While some portions make a big deal about what sorts of behaviors are appropriate for one gender or the other, other passages contradict those notions. And there there are a few places where the text asserts very insistently that gender is unimportant. Such as:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
—Galatians 3:28, Holy Bible, King James Version
Which seems to back the notion that god’s love really is unconditional, so maybe his so-called followers should stop trying to enforce divisions.
Note: The title comes from the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal
Unfortunately, among the replies from other friends and acquaintances expressing support, sympathy, and so on, there was one guy—someone who thinks of himself as a good friend of hers—who chimed in to angrily ask why you would speak up later just for spite.
Even though I don’t know this guy myself, one reason I know that he thinks he’s a great friend of the woman who posted the original story is because, as she and other people tried to explain that spite had nothing to do with it and so forth he described himself multiple times as a friend of the woman. He also said that he believed her story, but he also thought that if she hadn’t reported it at the time, it was wrong to report it later. “Why ruin his life over one little mistake years ago?”
And he really couldn’t understand who so many of us were describing his comments as attacks.
I don’t know how to get through to people like that. Someone who views sexual assault as “a little mistake.”
But it’s just a symptom:
When you think about it, this whole “oh my god it’s a scary age to be a man we could all be accused of sexual assault at any time” is a huge gaslighting campaign. It makes the simple request to not be sexually assaulted or harassed seem like something unreasonable and absurd, like sexual abuses aren’t a serious thing in the first place.
And it really annoys me that the same people who are up in arms trying to ban trans people from public bathrooms are the same folks who are screaming “fake news” and “innocent until proven guilty.” The last one really gets under my skin in connection to the Kavanaugh nomination. The presumption of innocence is an important principle, yes, because before a person is deprived of their freedom (sent to prison), the state should be forced to reach a certain standard of proof. But Kavanaugh isn’t in danger of going to prison over this. We aren’t depriving him or property or freedom or his life. We’re just saying the maybe he’s not a good candidate to be decided the fates of millions of other people under the law.
Also, the presumption of innocence doesn’t kick in until after there has been a thorough investigation of the alleged crime. And people don’t want us to do that (and no, telling the FBI to look into things for a week is not a thorough investigation).
The Republican Party has been the home of racists, misogynists, and homophobes for decades. They’re been liars and hypocrites for just as long. And they’re clearly demonstrating now that there is no bottom. There is no depth of immorality or deception they will not sink to. Just as there seems to be no limit to how much B.S. the Republican Base will eat up.
Meanwhile, there is no shortage of news about hurricane Florence, and it is a big deal. People are in danger. It is important: Tropical Storm Florence crawls inland as it batters North and South Carolina and Florence: At least five dead, nearly 1 million without power as storm swamps Carolinas. But even Florence has a political angle: Trump Made It Clear to Virginia That Blue States Now Get Treated Like the Brown People of Puerto Rico:
Virginia’s entire Congressional delegation begged Trump to issue a federal emergency declaration for Virginia, which [as of Tuesday, when this story was publish was] more exposed to the destructive force of the monster hurricane Florence than North Carolina, and is likely to be hit as hard as South Carolina. But initially, Trump only offered emergency declarations for North and South Carolina. He completely ignored Virginia. For many, this omission looked very political. Virginia is now a blue state, as Trump very well knows. By excluding Virginia up until just [Tuesday] afternoon, he sent a clear message of how disasters in the age of climate change will be handled by the emergency government agencies he now controls. If you are a blue state, then he is going to treat you in the same way he treated Puerto Rico (over 4,000 dead, no electricity for a year, etc.). If you are blue, you are as good as brown.
I already mentioned Olivia (which seems to have downgraded to a tropical depression, but can still pack a wallop), but Florence isn’t the only storm looming: Hurricane Florence isn’t alone: Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Olivia, even a typhoon also out there.
Baton down the hatches, and don’t count on any timely help from the feds.
The Nazis wanted an ethnically and culturally “pure” society, and were willing to use violence to make it happen. That means they advocated for what would now be called “self-deportation” of anyone who did match their mythical Aryan ideal. In other words: everyone who wasn’t white, who wasn’t culturally Christian, who wasn’t heterosexual (Berlin in the 1930s had a thriving and public homosexual community), and who didn’t agree with them were out. In the early stages the government arrested undesirables under pretexts of other crimes while they turned a blind eye to the actions of their supporters who terrorized people in various ways. The message was clear to people of color, to Jewish people, and queer people: disappear or else.
Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. Even though both of them were from the south and their accents would make anyone think they were “good old boys” they had no patience for racism or sectarian prejudice. And while the image most people have of white guys who were their age in the 1980s, they both despised Reagan. My paternal grandfather said for years that he was going to move to North Carolina (we had relatives there, so he visited a lot) and establish residency just so he would have the pleasure to vote against the notorious racist senator, Jesse Helms.
My dad, on the other hand, was a blatant racist. He regularly used the n-word and other racial slurs. And every time he did within earshot of his own father, Grandpa would tell him not to use that kind of language around him. My maternal grandfather also told Dad not to talk like that.
But it wasn’t just about coarse language. When Dad would say things (about Black people or Jewish people or queer people) like: they should go back where they came form, or they were all lazy/greedy/dishonest/immoral, or they deserved it when bad things happened to them—my grandfathers called him on it.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard my paternal grandfather admonish my dad sternly along the lines of: “I didn’t spend four years of my life fighting in a war just so people could do the same racist hateful stuff here! All people deserve respect and a chance to live their lives, no matter where they were born or what religion they believe or the color of their skin!”
Each time he argued with my dad on those subjects, he mentioned his service in WWII and compared Dad’s beliefs to those of the Nazis.
My maternal grandfather wasn’t around Dad and me at the same time as often as my paternal grandfather was (and after the divorce when more details of how bad Dad’s physical abuse had been, Grandpa absolutely refused to be around him), so I only heard him lecture Dad like that once, but it was a doozy. As I recall, it went something like this: “I spent years fighting Nazis and fascists. I watched a lot of good men die. I saw people who had been starved and beaten and imprisoned just because their skin was the wrong color or they attended the wrong kind of church. And all of that bloodshed happened because people said that kind of B.S. you just said and other people believed it. You have a right to your opinion, but if you try to put THAT opinion into action… well, I for one am not afraid to fight again!”
Both of my grandfathers knew what Nazis and fascists were. They literally fought them. And when Dad spouted off his racist, anti-semetic, and otherwise bigoted opinions, they all but called him a Nazi.
They set the bar, for me. When I hear someone saying that people of color should “go back where they came from” or that every member of a particular religious background is a terrorist, or that the poor or disabled or mentally ill people are burdens on society that need to be “dealt with,” or that whole categories of people should be locked up, or that the economy isn’t working right because of “those people” taking “our jobs” and someone should do something about it, or lump refugees and immigrants together and call them all disparaging names, et cetera, then I’m going to say you’re talking like a Nazi. And you are advocating the policies of Nazis.
I do not call everyone who disagrees with me about some things a Nazi. There are people I disagree with on really important things that I don’t think are talking like Nazis. I have a couple of relatives I could name who are opposed to gay rights in general and marriage equality in particular. They are civil when they talk to me or my husband, and they don’t think they have a bigoted bone in their bodies. They’re wrong on that point. And obviously as an out proud queer man we disagree about a bunch of important things because of their feelings about gay rights. But they don’t believe that we should be herded into “quarantine camps” and they are outraged that border agents have seperated familes and put children in cages and so forth. We disagree on some pretty important things, but they don’t advocate the policies of Nazis. So I don’t call them that.
If you don’t like being called a Nazi, maybe, just maybe, you should take a closer look at the kind of things you’re saying, the people you are supporting or defending, and the policies you’re reporting. Because if you take an honest look, you may finally see a Nazi looking back at you from the mirror.
And like my grandfathers said, those policies aren’t welcome here.