Today I’m thinking about hate speech.
There are a couple of different things that have kicked this off–a video making the rounds of the internet right now, of a young man eloquently describing how his parents’ sexuality has had absolutely no effect on his ability to be a productive citizen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yMLZO-sObzQ), and a post on Dances With Fat about the number of anti-fat messages we see in an average day (http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/386170-unhelpful-things/)–and reading the discussions that inevitably follow these sorts of videos/articles, I’ve been impressed and amazed at how many of my friends are riding out under the “All God’s Children Got a Place in the Choir” banner. It says something, I think, that there are so many people just in my small corner of the world who are passionate about treating all humans with love and decency. It gives me hope, and warms my inky soul.
It also makes me wonder when it became a social norm for us to extend more love to others than we show to ourselves. I’m personally guilty as sin on this point–the little demons that live in my brain are vitriolic, hateful, and downright mean…and yet apparently, at least according to popular culture, that’s somehow ok. You’re supposed to hate yourself. Women are supposed to get together and moan about their uncooperative hair, their imperfect skin, their less-than-dazzling teeth, their non-Barbie measurements. (I’m given to understand that men deal with this too, but I won’t presume to speak for someone else’s experience.) We’re supposed to use language about ourselves that is demeaning, shaming, spiteful, and unproductive. That’s just how the world works, right?
But here’s the thing: bullying is never ok, even when it’s coming from within your own brain. We tell kids again and again that it is never ok to mistreat people (or be mistreated) because of their appearance, beliefs, background, lifestyle, or any other distinguishing factor; we tell them that if they’re being bullied, they need to tell someone, and keep telling people until someone does something to make it stop. We tell them that hate speech is strictly prohibited, and that calling people names is unacceptable. We tell them that they are not allowed to hurt each other physically, mentally, or emotionally because of differences, and that a far better goal is to find and embrace our similarities as human beings. And we get very protective of the people we love on this point–when I found out that my little niece was being bullied on the school bus, my first gut-level response ran directly contrary to all the messages of peace and tolerance I’ve ever preached. Bullying is never ok, and she doesn’t have to tolerate it. Ever. And I will enforce that with every ounce of my being, and hopefully teach her to enforce that too.
And all of those messages are wonderful, and all of those messages are true. The only problem is that we don’t seem to be saying these same things to ourselves.
So today’s post is a short one, because I am flatly refusing to spell out my reasoning or provide quippy examples of today’s message. It is a bottom-line truth, and on this point, I shall not be moved:
Bullying is never ok, even when it’s coming from within your own brain. Hate speech is never ok, even when it’s aimed at yourself. If you have nothing constructive to suggest, even to yourself, then you can go right ahead and shut up, because your words are useless at that point except as a weapon, and we have a strict zero-tolerance no-weapons policy in this skull.
In other words, if you can’t say something nice–or at least something useful–then you may sulk silently in the corner until you rot, because I will not allow you, o little mental demons, to talk to me in ways that I would not tolerate from another human being.
Being mean is not ok, and I am not allowed to participate in it, even when no other people were harmed in the making of this self-directed violence. Period. End of post.