Thursday, March 12, 2015

The New-New Statement RE: The Friend

I spent a week working on this and 24hrs psyching myself up into posting it. I realized that my paranoia/trigger about disappointing people was the major factor preventing me from posting it. So if this hurts anybody...I'm sorry. I have to live with my conscience and my conscience has been screaming that I need to do this since about mid-December.

I don't like bullies.  

This is going to irritate some (if not all) of my regulars, and some (if not all) of the people who have reached out to me over the last few months. I'm sorry if it does. I'm saying this because I feel I need to. I've been looking at it for, like, a week, struggling with what to say. I've also been deeply afraid of what this statement will do to everyone involved. I fully expect to get hammered for saying it. 

I still think it needs to be said.  

Benjanun Sriduankaew (AKA Requires Hate, AKA the Unnamed Friend) and her supporters are providing her side of the events that began last November. Unfortunately the conflict around her happened to involve me. She and I had a conflict several years ago--ironically enough, also in November--and the fact of that conflict--not the subject, just the fact that it happened--became a part of the story against her. (If you're not familiar with this, go here and here)

I'm cool with that. Her statement...thing.

In fact, I'm a little more than cool. See, as much as I don't like bullies? I do like people.  
No. More than that. I love them. Every time I think that I understand what they are capable of, they surprise me with something wonderful. People change. People grow. People are capable of such extremes, and at our worst we are unforgivable. But at our best...oh, God, my dears, at our best we are amazing. Every one of us has the potential to be as good as we are bad. Destroying people accomplishes nothing.
                                                                                        
I've been blathering on my blog for the last few months on the concept of agape--the greek word for unconditional love that gets flung around in Christian circles like it's paint in a lidless blender. (I find it to be a very valuable word that's been cheapened by overuse, but I suspect most secular readers aren't familiar with it.)  I don't like bullies because they create divisions that don't have to be there. They destroy relationships before they start. They limit what others can do. They hurt others. They make life more difficult when we humans really don't need the extra garbage. They add conditions to something that shouldn't have them.  
But the thing is? (And here's another trite-yet-valuable saying) Hurt people hurt people. When we have pain, be it acute or chronic, we tend to lash out and get it on others. Active attempts at damaging others is rooted in something deeper, something that can't quite make it to the surface. While this does not justify the pain we cause others, it explains it. Piling more pain onto the bully just drives the hurt deeper, and escalates the bad behavior. Not only will nothing get fixed, everything will get more broken. 

November of 2012 was not a good one for me, something that would be true if Benjanun had not contacted me at all. I had several real life bullies who were much nastier than she was (Trust me, a vitriolic blogger has nothing on an actual homophobic, narcissistic racist, and I was dealing with several). The extra stress of her actions aggravated an already stressful situation. She criticized me in ways I was especially vulnerable to, and reminded me of events I was not and still am not ready to process. She created an atmosphere of paranoia and double-guessing and took away one of the few areas for stress relief I had at the time. I carried some of that resentment around because it hurt. Hurt sticks, regardless of intent.  

Last November, after a short and explosive burst of anger, I found myself able to forgive her. Even suggesting that I could bought me a certain amount of backlash. How could I do that? How could I forgive a person who has hurt me, and hurt so many other people? 

Because she's a person. With feelings. That ought to be respected even if we don't agree with them. 
That's the core issue in the original conflict between me and her. I said something she objected to. Because she disagreed with me, she attacked my words without taking my feelings or well-being into account, and that lead to damage, a few heated words on my part, and a pretty ugly episode splashed across a small corner of the internet. Eventually we left each other alone. We both moved on. 

 Nowhere in this equation does it state that anybody has the right to hurt her back because of what she's said or done.  

I've paid attention to the debate involving her, even after I decided I no longer wanted to be involved in it, and I haven't liked what I've seen. The current harassment of Benjanun Sriduankaew has nothing whatsoever to do with the conflict that I had to do with her two years ago. It can't, because that's not how these things work. Eye-for-an-eye is not a valid judgment call. If it is true for me to say that I am not responsible for her behavior two years ago, and that I did not deserve that treatment, then its true to say the same for her right now. And I feel that it is true. If she deserves anything, it's our respect and sympathy. 

Because she's a person 

I did contribute to the backlash by speaking out very early on in anger and hurt. I wanted the kind of treatment I experienced to stop, and that urgency combined with the left-over emotions pushed me over the edge. It's something I regret. The one thing that is not true about our conflict and has never been true is that she's harassed me because I was raped. That's kind of the implication I see whenever I find myself linked to under the less-than-sensitive title, "The rape victim" (Note: Please stop doing that). The truth is we got into a conflict over words (I called a fictional character a "bitch") and it spiraled out of control. I just happened to be a statistic at the same time. 

The deciding factor for where I'd choose to fall in this debate was how the backlash against her made me feel sick to my stomach very, very quickly. Pain, by its very definition, is undeserved. The parallels between her treatment of me and others current treatment of her is very easy to see, and I do not want to be a part of causing anyone pain. Answering hate with hate is not the answer. It feels good, but it's a sick kind of good. It heals, but it creates an abscess in the process. Because if you can hurt your enemy, you can hurt a neutral stranger. If you can hurt a neutral stranger, then you can hurt your friends. Each time you strike out with the intent to damage, you hurt yourself as much as you do your enemy.  

The answer to bullying is not to bully the bullies. The sheer inanity of that statement should make it self explanatory. 

A lot of people will say her side doesn't matter. That she's hurt so many people, she deserves to be hurt in turn. I disagree. Not because I will necessarily agree with her side, but because the kind of resolution I'd most like to see, one in which everyone is able to come out ahead, means caring for even those we don't agree with.  
That does not mean we need to let her off the hook for her errors in judgment. We do need to take steps to protect ourselves from potentially toxic people, and she needs to do the self-work necessary to state her opinions and present herself to the world without hurting others in the process. I don’t think that process will be perfect. But there's a big difference between "protect ourselves" and "batter somebody else into the ground".  

As a Christian, for me everything always goes back to the Bible. Not because I think it's the be-all-end-all, but because it is the most effective language I know for social constructs like unconditional love and dealing with toxicity. And the thing I remember the most with situations like this is that bit in the Lord's Prayer that goes "Forgive us, as we forgive others. " There are no qualifiers. There's no "If I agree with their behavior" or "If I agree with their lifestyle" or "If their taste in media matches what I call good" or “If they adhere to all the rules of good behavior”. Even if you do not believe in the Christian God, or any higher power, we are still supposed to forgive as we hope to be forgiven. Full stop.  
                                                                     
On a personal note: I've spoken with her (long after I made the decision to forgive her) and we're relatively cool with each other. We've also agreed to respect each other's boundaries, something she has been VERY respectful of. You can make of that what you will. I cannot and will not support her in negative behaviors towards others, but I absolutely will support her in any positive changes and restructuring she chooses to do in her life. The same goes for her opponents. I will absolutely support positive changes in the community to minimize the damage of toxic behavior and attitudes, but I cannot and will not support actions against the people themselves. I hope and pray that she will make positive choices in spite of the backlash she has received, and that the genre community in general can learn how to police itself without abusing violators above and beyond what their behavior calls for. 

As I said, I've been terrified in how this statement with effect others, and what it will do to me in the future. I know it runs the risk--hopefully, the very small risk--of ending friendships. But there's nothing meritorious or especially beneficial to humans in general if the only people we treat with dignity are the ones we agree with. I have long believed that the only way to solve most of humanity's problems is to start treating people like they have inherent value because they do. Nobody's throw-away, regardless of their behavior.

 In the end, the only person I have to live with is me. And the one thing I want to be able say is that no matter who started it, the cycle of damage stops with me.  

I wish her all the best. 

5 comments:

  1. I am deeply unimpressed by her version of events, but I don't think this is the time or place to get into it. The only comment I'll make about that post is this:

    No one deserves rape threats. No one. Full stop. Even if you think you have a really really good reason this time, guys, for real, she totally deserves it - No she doesn't. That is unacceptable behaviour and it needs to stop, absolutely.

    As for your post here, well, it's your life. You get to decide how you deal with the people around you, and how you respond to them. And it's your blog, so you get to decide how you talk about those people. It's not your job to put on a public performance of Victim or Survivor or whatever for the approval of others.

    I definitely have Opinions on all this, but this isn't the time or the place for them. If you want them, you can contact me through email or Tumblr. But otherwise my paragraph above stands: It's your life, and you get to decide how to deal with it.

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    1. That's the issue that's been evolving for me. It's the fact that the literal worst episode of my life is being used to justify rape threats against others. That's not cool.

      I'm not going to lead a call for forgiveness because it is my choice. I feel that being silent and not saying anything is implicitly condoning the above. It makes me feel dirty and it adds to my baggage, and it facilitates the harming of another human being.

      I feel that's wrong, and I feel this is what I have to do.

      Thanks for understanding.

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  2. I don't for one minute condone the harassment she is receiving. However, I wish her feminism would be more intersectional. Reacting to the use of the word bitch as she did crosses the line directly in to ableism, since your struggles with mental illness and the traumatic events in your life impact you on a daily basis. Not to mention said issues can greatly influence how we handle activism. For a long time I was so anxious that I /couldn't/ discuss those issues. Not because I didn't want to, not because I wanted to protect my privileges, but because they would make me curl up in a shaking ball on the floor. Some of my friends struggle mightily too, because their anxiety or autism or whatever make it so they feel they're violating a set of rules they can't comprehend or understand, a HUGE trigger for people dealing with those problems.

    I also have an issue with her singling out you, a female identified person, for use of the word bitch. To my eye, that is a word you have special ownership of, much as other groups have made efforts to reclaim slurs used against them, but would not appreciate out group members using those same words. I also saw her and her followers tweet pictures of a bloody and bruised man to a person who is an out male rape victim and victim advocate. I can't condone that. I don't care if that man said all women are worthless. Responding like that is just wrong.

    However, I have written in defense of her before too, because if the only criticism someone has is that she's calling out racism in a harsh way, well boo hoo. No one has to agree with her, but her anger in that matter is justified. That doesn't mean I have to condone her going after the wrong targets, or going after the right targets in an outright malicious way.

    All that said I will not argue against your need to forgive her. I admit forgiveness is a Christian value that I struggle with understanding, but frankly, I don't need to understand it to respect it. I appreciate and care about you, and your opinions matter to me even if I don't always share them. I admire the bravery it took to post this.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. It means an awful, awful lot.

      Delete
  3. I understand your perspective. My sister forgave her husband for all the horrible things he did to her, and encouraged her friends to remember that he was a child of God, too. In that way, she exemplified forgiveness. I get where you're coming from and am glad you have a resolution that you are happy with. That's the important part.

    ReplyDelete