on civil discourse

How do we do this thing? We have been this far apart from each other twice, in our country’s history:

  • The Civil War, during which one half of us thought owning human beings was just fine, and the other half disagreed.
  • The period around the Vietnam War, the 1960s and 1970s, when our country was bald-faced lying to us and happily sacrificing thousands of our boys for a fight that wasn’t ours at ALL, and when black people and gay people and women were simply trying to be treated like actual human beings and not substandard crap to be swept aside by mainstream white man America.

Here we are again. Let me immediately confess and agree that I am as unyielding as any Republican, and I have no idea at all how we can ever move forward. I look back at our history and I see/guess that we have moved forward from those two terrible periods, but at the same time I have to wonder that we keep finding ourselves in this same bi-polarized place, so did we really move forward? Or did we just tire of the fight, and agree to shut the fuck up for a while?

I read arguments noting that we have to be able to come to the table, talk to each other, but this is always what stops me. It’s not like we’re talking about arcane issues like how exactly to approach the debt ceiling. I am unwilling to “negotiate” on such issues as these:

  • Black people and all people of color have the same human rights as white people, and the country has been set up quite exactly to ensure the privilege of the white people.
  • Women, as “human beings,” have the right to decide what happens to themselves.
  • All of us should pay our share, including the rich people and businesses.
  • Gun control needs to happen immediately, as it has in all civilized countries.
  • One critical function of the federal government is to provide a safety net for the less-strong among us. The federal government does not exist solely to fund the military and give everything else to the rich people.
  • All of us, even the impoverished, should have access to healthcare — which means affordable healthcare. We should be able to make the same decisions for our lives regardless of our wealth status, and we should not be having to organize gofundme accounts to help save our lives. That is so outrageous. At this very moment, I know two people fighting cancer who are begging for help with gofundme accounts. If that doesn’t give you pause, get the fucking hell away from me immediately.
  • Religion has no place in government and laws. We are not a theocracy.


If we were able to meet on some crazy idea of common ground, accepting the same general principles that characterize the most basic humanity, then it would be a debate about how best to accomplish these goals. But it isn’t. I don’t want to unnecessarily play the Hitler card, but I’ll do that here. How could we sit down and say:

“OK, so you think it’s OK to eliminate a whole people systematically and I don’t, so let’s find a way forward.”

FUCK THAT. Fuck the hell out of that, and I mean that with an almost violent passion. I no longer have the time or energy to give to silent ‘friends’ who won’t take even the silliest of public stands….Facebook. If, at this point, I don’t know where you stand, I am not your friend. Being vaguely “against hate” while watching Fox News does not cut it, at all. I know who you are. You have shown me exactly who you are. I no longer have the time or energy to give to ‘friends’ who see the world so profoundly differently. To friends who were temporarily broke while putting their husbands through med school and then say they understand and talk about people “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.” Perhaps it’s terrible of me. I leave a lot of space for that to be true. But this is me, and I just can’t do it anymore. So let me say all this as plainly as I can. And yes, this refers to you.

If you’re silent, you are not my friend. If I don’t know where you stand, you are not my friend. You are simply someone I ‘know.’

Friend has a different meaning to me now. If you hold a position that could get someone I love killed, I cannot be your friend. If you think women don’t have a right to self-determination, I cannot be your friend. (Believe whatever you want for yourself, I would never argue with you as long as you believe all women have that same right as you do, even if you disagree with what they choose and believe. I would never hold that your personal beliefs are wrong, as they apply to you. I would defend your right to believe them.) If you think there isn’t a systemic anti-POC stance, I cannot be your friend, because I have no sense of your intelligence. If you think your religion should determine my rights, I cannot be your friend. (If your beliefs apply only to you, I would never argue with you, and I would defend your right to your own beliefs for yourself.) If you think non-violent protestors have no right to protest, I cannot be your friend. If you think there should be no gun control laws, I cannot be your friend. If you are so silent that I have no idea what you believe, I cannot be your friend, even if occasionally you send me — privately — a note that contradicts your public claims, and claims you have made to my face. You are a threat to my life, and to the lives of those I love.

I’m drawing a line. It may make me small, it may make me no-better-than-them, but I have to live with myself. These are bleak times. It’s us against them, and my heart and soul are against them. I will defend Lucy’s humanity as a some-day woman with my very life. I will defend my grandchildren’s futures with my life. I will defend my gay son’s rights with my life. I mean that literally, and I would prefer to live to be a dusty old woman, a bag of brittle old bones, but their futures matter more to me than my own, at this point, so if you’re on the other side, you are against me. Also, I do not give even one shit if you used to protest for the good side, if you’ve since moved to the other side. Quit bragging. You are a hideous hypocrite. And yes. I mean you.

And I am against you. You are not on my side, and I will fight to my last breath to oppose you. Nothing has ever mattered more to me. I’m old[er] and wise[r] and know what matters to me, and I just do not have a second to waste.

And yes. I am furious.

4 thoughts on “on civil discourse”

    1. Completely unfathomable. We live in two separate worlds now, two separate versions of things, two separate media streams. I don’t see how we will possibly come together. xxx

      1. And therein lies what I think of as the biggest, most intransigent problem at all – we have somehow decided that we all get to have our own facts. When people in Silicon Valley can quite honestly say and believe not only that there are fewer women in tech because they are less capable, biologically (and can claim to have science on their side in saying that), but also that white men are oppressed, it is clear to me that we are not all considering the same body of evidence. I find myself at a loss as to what to do about that. I am an educator, and I believe in education. I work to speak truth to power in a way that has some modicum of a chance of getting through to my students who live in the world of alternative facts – but sometimes I look at the blank faces in my classes and wonder, how will we ever come to the same table, if we have such fundamentally different ideas of who “counts”, whose experiences matter, which reality we’re looking at?

        1. YES. EXACTLY. What passes for evidence in the two separate worlds, and truth, and ‘proof,’ are so divergent I honestly can’t figure out where to put my feet. Even just the two narratives are on parallel tracks. I used to try to listen to theirs and it was so incredibly confusing, because it didn’t touch the ground anywhere near the evidence I hold, the story as I understand it, the facts as I have studied them. And so how do we step forward?

          Different truths, and profoundly different assumptions about starting points, and I am just lost. I don’t envy you, trying to do your classroom work, even as I’m glad that you are there to try.

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