Two weeks ago, on the Writing Excuses Cruise, I devised an analogy to help explain how I feel about people who deny the impact of ugly history on current conditions. When people responded well, I decided to share it more widely. The statement included the reality that we must all do our own work to heal. This goes for both individuals and communities. But I have no tolerance for people who pretend that history didn’t happen, or that they/their group would have done better:
“If I’m hit by a car, I must do all the work of rehabilitation. Every painful step. If it was hit-and-run, I might even have to pay for it myself. If I want to walk again, I have to pay that freight. But don’t you DARE tell me there was no car. Or that if you had been similarly hit, you wouldn’t limp.
And if you do, and you kinda look like the person who was driving..?
Friend, you and I have problems.”
Not a terribly subtle analogy, and I’m asked why I talk about these things so frequently. Surely (one side says) no one really thinks or speaks that way any more..?
It is to laugh. In full honesty, in ONE recent conversation all the following were offered in response to this analogy, modified for the sake of Friday Fun:
- But an Irishman was once hit by a car.. He’s not still limping. (He was hit at the same speed? By a similar vehicle transferring as much energy to the same parts of his body? Did they speed away or back up over him a few times? You don’t know? Then what was the precise intent of your statement?)
- Why should I pay for your hit and run? (I’m not asking you to. Just stop lying about the fact that it happened)
- That happened last week. Why are you still limping? (On what planet do people recover from broken bones overnight?)
- I wouldn’t complain as much as you if it happened to me. (You complain about just HEARING about it. Don’t make me laugh. You’d squeal like a pig.)
- I never had any advantages. (And fish don’t see water. You certainly didn’t have the disadvantage of being hit by a car, and then have spectators deny it ever happened. Gaslighting in not nice.)
- I see militant hit and run victims demanding I compensate them for their injuries. I therefore reject all conversations about this. So you believe it valid to reject truth because of the misbehavior of some who speak it? I could damn any group, discount any reality using that technique. Bravo. You have just achieved perfect self-serving ignorance and dishonesty, masquerading as ethics.
- It was your grandfather who was hit, not you. Why are you complaining? Because he was hit in his youth, impacting his life-long capacity to earn, finish school, or defend himself, which damaged my father, which damaged me.
- The event happened in one second. Why are you still damaged months later? What has duration to do with damage? How long does it take for a bullet to kill you? In general, it ALWAYS takes longer for a wound to heal than it took to inflict.
- How much longer will I have to hear about this? Gee, if it tweaks you to HEAR about it, you would never have survived having it actually happen to you.
- I didn’t hit you! I didn’t say you did. I just said stop pretending I wasn’t hit, or that if you’d been hit, you wouldn’t have been damaged as badly, and screaming as loudly from the pain. And if you DO believe that? Don’t tell me you aren’t saying you’re better than me. Be honest about your elitism.
- What do you want me to do? Just tell the truth. Then, do whatever your conscience dictates, including simply go about your business.
- But there are some accident victims who want to spend money on emergency rooms and rehabilitation clinics! Yeah, that happens in a democracy. And my tax dollars have gone for killing hundreds of thousands of strangers. If helping people heal is the worst thing you’re made complicit in, I’d thank my lucky stars.
Every single one of these (or, ahem, their analogues, if you know what I mean) was said or implied IN A SINGLE CONVERSATION within the last month. Trust me, one way or another I’ve dealt with some form of these statements continuously, almost every day, over my entire life.
I’m simply not silent about it any more.
Isn’t it fun?