I swear if I have one more “friend” on Facebook or Twitter follower or casual acquaintance tell me to stop being so political I’m going to lose it. I was raised to speak up if I see wrong and to work towards fixing it. Silence is dangerous – today and always. As a historian, I’m haunted by the times humanity turned away instead of helped and I am going to do better. If it means I lose some followers and “friends”, so be it. If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
I lost a couple of Facebook friends yesterday. I posted about my wonderful friend Amanda’s upcoming speech in Banff Alberta, and I’d posted a couple of articles this week about racism, intolerance, and transphobia. According to one of these “friends” since I’m not “black, Muslim, or gay” I “shouldn’t be concerned about these issues” and need to “shut up and stop ruining the world with political correctness”. He went on to say that I should “give up politics and political posts for Lent”. I replied that he should give up being an asshole for Lent, which is when he unfriended me. Then his wife (who was the person I was friends with first, though acquaintances might be a better term – we’d had classes together at one point, that was about it. I think we may have gone out in a group setting together once or twice but she’s not someone I hung out with regularly or anything, just someone who posted really adorable dog pictures on Facebook which is why she was still on my friends list if I’m being completely honest) messaged me about how I’m a bigot and how her husband was just exercising free speech and shouldn’t I be open to that? I did apologize for the asshole comment, because yeah maybe that was a bit much, and explained that her husband had every right in the world to say whatever he believed in – but I had no obligation to listen to his bullshit. It got ugly fast when she started spouting anti-vaccination propaganda and I started deliberately misinterpreting what she was saying to try to show how uninformed and awful she sounded. We played unfriending chicken back and forth a bit, and ultimately she pressed the button to unfriend me. If I’d realized what she was like beyond the adorable puppy pictures, I’d have unfriended her long ago.
Looking back on the exchange this morning, I’m angry. This couple obviously believed that free speech isn’t a two way street. They think that they should be able to say whatever opinion they have with impunity but think it’s okay to tell me to stop posting political things because they don’t like them. That’s the quickest way to make me want to post as many political things as I can. I also dislike the idea that arguing for equality – whether it be gender, racially, or identity based is inherently political. It’s political because people have chosen to make it political. To me, it’s doing what I was taught to do as a kid – if you see something wrong, speak up and work to make it right. I have privileges afforded by my race, social class, education, sexual orientation, and the country I live in. If I didn’t use the advantages I have to speak up for those who are being persecuted or harassed, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror in the morning. (Granted, I don’t particularly like looking at myself in the mirror anyway but that’s a totally different story). I’m also angry at the assumptions that were made – I’m not a person of colour, but I have friends who are and even if i didn’t why shouldn’t I point out an injustice happening to a stranger? I’m not transgender, but I have some wonderful friends who are either transgender, gender fluid, or simply non-binary and anything that makes them feel less safe, makes me feel less safe. I have as much of a right to exist, be in a public space, and feel safe as they do (that phrase is normally said with “I” and “they” flipped but when I wrote it this way.. it seemed to hit a little harder). I’m Christian in my belief system, but I have a wonderfully diverse group of friends who are always willing to explain and teach me about their faith – be it Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Atheism, Buddhism, or their particular branch of Christianity. When someone makes a threat against the Islamic community, or the Jewish community – they aren’t threatening nameless, faceless people. They are threatening my friends. Intolerance cannot and will not be accepted on my watch. I may not be able to stop it on my own, but I’m hardly alone.
So, if you’re my Facebook friend, or follow me on Twitter, consider this your fair warning. I have a voice, and I’m going to continue to use it both in public and in private to stand up against injustices and intolerance. I will not sit by quietly. I will resist. If that makes me a Nasty Woman in some people’s eyes, I’m perfectly fine with that. I will resist, and I will persist.