10 August 2009

Speaking of Things Sometimes Better Left Unsaid

There are many rules for general society, mostly about manners, politeness, and respect. Usually, these are drummed into us from childhood. We are taught to respect others through our actions and words. Shake hands, speak politely, modulate our voices, eat neatly, dress appropriately all as to not make others uncomfortable. Don’t be rude. When we are confronted with rudeness or poor manners from others, we are told to rise above it, not to stoop to it. We must take the high road as to appear more civilized. We certainly “know better.” You cannot force someone else to see your reasoning. Better to let them alone lest you yourself be seen as arrogant.

But there is also the old slang definition for doormat.

I write this post conflicted. Manners have been so ingrained in me that pointing out rudeness in someone else is just not done. Miss Manners would agree emphatically. I know, logically, that you cannot change the beliefs or actions of others. That you only can control yourself. But lately, I’ve come to realize that sticking up for yourself doesn’t have to be seen as arrogant or rude. That virtual slaps from other people to your character or beliefs do not have to be taken without a response. And when those slaps occur in front of other people, you should be able to defend yourself without worrying about being rude or impolite.

Last week, I had an email exchange with my boyfriend’s mother regarding the new healthcare plan. It sounds all cordial writing it that way, but in reality, it wasn’t. Her initial points were in all caps and full of anger and lies. My response was not much better, though I did at least use factual sources and provide citations. At the crux of it all, it was politics, simply politics. She shouted her opinions and I shouted the opposite. I thought it was over when she sent me a very brief, but respectful, email stating that she did not want to discuss politics as she wasn’t interested in my opinions and for me to not email her any more, thanks. I was more than happy to let it go at that. I’d said my piece.

Imagine my surprise when 3 minutes later I received another email from her, this one decidedly not cordial. In addition to reiterating that I not email her again, she said she “knew sooner or later [I]'d find a way to separate [Boyfriend] from his family and [I] have succeeded in doing so.” This one sent me reeling. None of my previous messages contained any personal attacks on her or even referenced my relationship with her son at all. And as I was pondering where that accusation could have possibly come from, she sent a third email—a single line: “Please don't email me again. I won't read them. I'll just delete them.” Three emails, each less cordial then the prior, all within 14 minutes.

It was clear that she had read more into my email than intended, if she was making judgments about my intentions with her son. And as her son and I have been together for almost 9 years, this belief of hers was news to both me and him. With this escalation, I was even more certain that I would not reply and simply let it go. She had escalated it well beyond what I thought was reasonable and logical and it was best to not engage any further. Until.

You knew there was an “until” didn’t you? Less than an hour later, I received another email from her. She had forwarded my original email to five other people with an added message saying (among other things):
She obviously feels the need "to straighten me out on the facts", which we all know are untrue. I think this says alot [sic] about her character. I have no idea why she feels the need to attack me. We all knew she'd find a way to separate [Boyfriend] from his family.
Of the names visible in the “To:” line, most were my boyfriend’s siblings, and the others were names neither my boyfriend nor I recognized. Strangers. This is where she crossed the line. I had no qualms about "shouting" responses to her directly, but when she involved other people it changed the game. I could not simply reply to everyone. They likely had no care whatsoever about what was happening and did not deserve to be placed in the middle of an argument clearly between the two of us. She might have attacked my character in public in a way the manners would dictate I not respond, but that didn't mean I had to let it go. Until now, my blog had remained fairly anonymous. I’d not advertised it and rarely included a link to it when I’ve commented elsewhere on the web. But now, it’s public. I’ve announced on my Facebook page that I have a blog and that this post is the reason for it. I cannot politely refute her to the people she emailed, but I most certainly can defend myself on my own public space. I will not be a doormat.

Through this whole exchange, I couldn’t help but compare it to the current political atmosphere. Since the election, critics have been yelling from the rooftops about how the current government is unfit. They have criticized every voice in government that is in opposition to their own. They’ve screamed lies and tried to instill fear in anyone who thinks differently than they. They’ve attacked and insulted people’s characters in forums where politeness dictates that the attacked should not stoop to their level. When the attacked do have a legitimate chance to respond, they counter rationally, using facts and providing sources. They keep their tone modulated and polite. They allow that they cannot force the opposition to believe the truth; they can only provide them with facts. They even provide the facts again and again, even as the voices of the opposition get louder, less truthful, and more disruptive.

It’s time someone stood up to them. It’s time we stopped tolerating the rudeness of the opposition and begin treating them like the lying, bratty children that they are. It’s time to override their boorishness and remind them of respect. If we continue to let them shout from rooftops, that’s the only message that will be heard. It’s time to confront them and silence their tantrums with honesty and facts. Louder does not mean truer. And I, for one, am no longer taking it, not from spoiled angry conservatives, and especially not from my boyfriend’s mother.

1 comment:

  1. 'Peach';
    I'm sorry to read this. I just don't see you as the 'separate (Boyfriend) from his family' type of person. You're in my thoughts.