Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We Find Comfort Among Those Who Agree With Us

Well, I ended up with 18 students for the Saturday screening of "The Hunger Games".  ((Warning: Spoilers ahead.  Nothing earth-shattering but you ought to know)) It was great! Grey was nice enough to go with me, as was my friend Kristen and my student teacher and her husband.  The kids were good as gold and there were several times during the movie that we looked over at each other to make faces in reaction to one scene or another.

There was much talk afterwards with one of the girls- the other kids scattered. She gave a blow-by-blow comparison that would make Ebert proud.  And yesterday at lunch the buzz was all positive.  It went something like this: We all want to take up archery, Katniss was a little too healthy (it *is* the Hunger Games, after all) and they blazed through Peeta being hurt. Rue was perfectly played.  Cinna was great and Haymitch wasn't quite drunk enough and he didn't even puke once.  There was not as much gory stuff in the movie. For instance, in the book, Katniss shoots one person in the neck. He pulls the arrow out and drowns in his own blood.  Pretty gory; pretty graphic.  The rating is PG-13 though so they had to rein it in a bit.  Also, the love triangle angle isn't as played up as it is in the book, though it is heavily suggested.

It was just a good time.

I came across an article from Jezebel on how some movie-goers were outraged, disappointed or thought that the movie was "ruined" because the actor playing Rue is Black.  So is Thresh and so is Cinna, but this was not such a big deal. Rue is an angel in the book and dies a horrible death.  White readers often conjure up a picture of innocence- wherein the child is then imagined to be White. This unconscious racism led to the "outrage" because the demographic of viewers felt they had "wasted their emotions" on a child who is not blonde haired and blue eyed.  I'm pretty sure that skin tone or follicle variations have fuck-all do to with innocence, purity, vulnerability or the brutality of oppression depicted in book. So I posted the link on my Facebook, like I often do.  I'm just going to post the screen shots of what transpired.  My take is that it was an interesting discussion- veering towards colorblindness. Colorblindness is "the idea that ignoring or overlooking racial and ethnic differences promotes racial harmony."  Color blindness perpetuates racism passively.  The person who is color blind usually believes that they are helping by ignoring race but the opposite is true.  It's very difficult to convince White people of this, by the way.

The sentiment on my post was more or less that I stir things up by talking about racism in my classroom.  I want to listen to stuff like that.  It helps me to think before I speak in my classroom and helps me frame my perspective.  I don't agree that I'm making something out of nothing, but I do at least want to take people's ideas into consideration.  

However, I think it's fair to observe that I was personally attacked. Someone I considered a friend said some pretty hateful things.  Over the last few months, he has had a tendency to jump into things, posting rather vehemently and taking me or others to task for our discussions.  On MY Facebook page. No inbox messages, not seeing me in person over the last six months or so.  Just progressively angry replies and what I have come to think of as trolling on my wall.  I stopped paying attention when he would say things because I assumed he was just trying to get a reaction.  But last night's post was different.  He accused me of "reverse racism" and stereotyping and being a generally hateful person.  Did I mention that he is a White conservative male?  For the first time, I removed someone's comments from my page.  The first I took down as it was a bunch of snarling. The second accused me of censoring him.  How dare I remove those nasty remarks?!

I am really bothered by this.  I am pretty careful about my rhetoric.  Sometimes people post things to my wall that are of interest and sometimes I post things too, but it's more to open dialog (which often happens).  I looked through my postings for the last few weeks.  A re-post of a friends blog, posts about spring break being awesome and some of the friends I've gotten to see lately.  Pictures of animals, the grass, my boyfriend, some bragging about homemade blueberry pancakes (I make some pretty good gluten-free blueberry pancakes if you ever need some) and one post calling the governor  a jerk for skipping out on the Oklahoma state visit by the president.  That one I should not have said.  Instead of saying "The governor is a jerk", I should have said she was behaving like a jerk.  I also jokingly said that I could tolerate a few conservatives.  Taken out of context, it could sound bad.  And a "conservative" friend had it out with me and we came to consensus.  But seriously, that's the worst of it.   I stayed up all night wondering what the hell I did to deserve such vitriol.  Do I hate Oklahomans? Do I blindly hate conservatives? I asked a few people.  My friend Cathy offered her opinion and I like to listen to what she has to say because she has known me for so long.  Grey thought my friend was completely off base, as did a few others who messaged me. 

For the record, I do not post negative things on his Facebook page and never rant on for multiple paragraphs.  I just don't- it's his page and I don't doggedly chase people down and try to make them see my logic because I'm so fucking right.  Because you know what? I'm not always right and that's ok.  I defriended my friend, saying that maybe it was better to be friends in real life only.  I received quite a long and thought-out reply in response, detailing such things as my dissertation giving me tunnel vision and ending with this: 

"Americans, Oklahomans, Conservatives and people who do not like the lack of integrity of our president. I belong to all of these groups, when you belittle those groups, or question their intelligence, class or character, because they hold a different opinion, it offends many people who you call friends. Again, this is only my opinion. I am sure I will re-read this many times, questioning if I have been open-minded. I have done screenshots on many of your posts over the last year or two, and still feel the same, for now anyway. I wish you the best of luck in your teaching, I pray your teaching is never filled with the same hate, which you fight so hard to stop."

I do tend to question people's class and character,  though I do it from my Facebook wall and not by poking my finger in someone's chest.  Ok, maybe I have been to more than a few protests.  And who are these many people?  As far as I know, we know maybe three people in common.  Did they contact him and call a committee meeting to discuss how offended I make them and what can be done to save me? And why the screen shots? In case I run for Congress or something? Will he need them in my murder trial? I have never picked a fight with a group, though I have responded strongly to something or another that a group has perpetuated.  And I've been thinking about it all day long.  Was he just trying to gas-light me? 

"The Gaslight Effect results from a relationship between two people: a gaslighter, who needs to be right in order to preserve his own sense of self and his sense of having power in the world; and a gaslightee, who allows the gaslighter to define her sense of reality because she idealizes him and seeks his approval."  

If this is true, then it ultimately failed. I don't think he did that on purpose.  I know what abusive people are like and generally, they fall into two categories. The first is the oblivious category and the second is the purposeful manipulation category. Both people should be avoided.  The veiled threat of him documenting my Facebook postings, saying how much i offend people, saying how open-minded he hopes he is being and how I offend "many people" I call friend.  The nail though, is in reference to my teaching.  That's where I go "Whoa the fuck up there, Lone Ranger".  I have been teaching for a long time. I have lots of degrees in pedagogy and shit like that.  I am observed on a regular basis and administrators in the district really enjoy visiting my classroom.  My materials are reviewed, my lesson plans are all on the desk at all times and my students exhibit happy behaviors, lack of fear of me and gains in reading.  Oh, and 18 of them came to watch a movie with me last weekend.  

Oh, wait, time out.  Didn't that last line say that I fight hard to stop hatred? 

So I blocked him. 

But let me say this: I don't think he is inherently a bad person.  I just don't. I just don't think he sees me clearly. Or perhaps I don't fit with his world view.  It's ok; I'm just going to let it be. 

You may see me write negative things from time to time.  I get angry with the way we humans behave towards each other, towards children, towards the environment and towards lesser creatures.  We humans, me included.  I am not exempt from bad behavior or a poor attitude from time to time.  I might insult a politician or kick a puppy, you never know.  If 15 years of college have taught me anything, it's that I don't know everything and that I can both make mistakes and learn.  

But I do know a few things.  
1.  I know that I won't stop talking about issues that bother me.  Maybe I can re-frame things to make them more palatable, but I won't not talk about things like inequality, racism, sexism, politics, gun laws, abortion or flying to the moon. 
2. Talking about issues of racism makes me neither a "White guilt" sufferer, nor a "reverse racist". Nor does it give me tunnel vision.  Frankly, my dissertation served to broaden my vision.  
3. Talking about issues of sexuality and sexual politics does not make me a man-hater. 
4. I have a right to be angry. I have a right, on my own social media page, to post and discuss these issues. I have never censored anyone before and often welcome and learn from the spirited dialog. As far as I know, the SPLC has not classified me as a hate group. 
5. I'm actually not that combative. I post things that are hopeful, that are kind, that remind me of people I love and that hopefully encourage others.  I post pictures of flowers.  I work in a helping profession and the things I do can help make a difference, even in a small way.   I like making blueberry pancakes and kissing and taking kids to the movies and the right for all women to make their own reproductive choices. 

Frank A. Clark once said "We find comfort among those who agree with us; growth among those who do not". I agree with him.  But then sometimes there comes a time when  you just gotta pick up your toys and books and go home.  

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