Race & Diversity

Point Fingers, and a Million Point Back at You

Be careful what you copy and paste on Facebook. People might assume you mean it.

Someone I know well copied and pasted the following to their Facebook wall, yesterday. I don’t think they really read it closely, or thought it through — I’m not entirely sure it expressed their own, honestly-held views of the world. I’m not entirely sure it doesn’t, if I’m being honest with myself. We all make excuses for family and friends, to the point of twisting ourselves into pretzels of denial and cognitive dissonance to manage it.

A Copy of the Facebook Copy-Paste Post

My Reply to the Now-Deleted Post

I’m not so much “outraged” as I am disappointed.

The First Amendment guarantees us all the right to express ourselves freely, without fear of retribution from the government. People on all sides of the political spectrum are quick to point out that that does not free us from the consequences of what we say. But there are consequences to silence, as well.

You may be familiar with the famous poem, often attributed to Martin Niemöller, regarding the Nazis’ rise to power in Europe:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is a simplistic version of Niemöller’s speech. Niemöller was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian born in Lippstadt, Germany, in 1892. He was an anti-Communist and supported Adolf Hitler’s rise to power at first. But when Hitler insisted on the supremacy of the state over religion, Niemöller became disillusioned. He became the leader of a group of German clergymen opposed to Hitler. In 1937 he was arrested and eventually confined in Sachsenhausen and Dachau. He was released in 1945 by the Allies. He continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and as a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people after World War II.

Niemöller made confession in his speech for the Confessing Church in Frankfurt on 6 January 1946, of which this is a partial translation:

… the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers. Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians — “should I be my brother’s keeper?”

Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it’s right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn’t it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? Only then did the church as such take note.

Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. Can we say, we aren’t guilty/responsible?

The persecution of the Jews, the way we treated the occupied countries, or the things in Greece, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia or in Holland, that were written in the newspapers. … I believe, we Confessing-Church-Christians have every reason to say: mea culpa, mea culpa! We can talk ourselves out of it with the excuse that it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out.

We preferred to keep silent. We are certainly not without guilt/fault, and I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in the year 1933 or 1934 — there must have been a possibility — 14,000 Protestant pastors and all Protestant communities in Germany had defended the truth until their deaths? If we had said back then, it is not right when Hermann Göring simply puts 100,000 Communists in the concentration camps, in order to let them die. I can imagine that perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 Protestant Christians would have had their heads cut off, but I can also imagine that we would have rescued 30–40,000 million [sic] people, because that is what it is costing us now.

Niemöller continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and as a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people after World War II.

Source:

Now, regarding those bullet points:

  • If a dude pretends to be a woman, you are required to pretend with him.

There may well be “dudes who pretend to be a woman” — I suspect that they are troublemakers trying to convince the world that your position, here, is correct. Transgender (and non-binary) people are not “pretending” — they are, finally, not pretending anymore.

But ask yourself this: Why do you care so much? What is it to you? I guarantee you, they do not see you as a potential sex partner. Even if they did, a simple, “No, not interested,” should suffice. Only people — I won’t say “men” because women can be sexual harassers and abusers, too — but only people who imagine that “no” does not mean “no” would see a threat lurking in the open co-existence of any LGBTQIA people.

You probably have friends who are LGBTQIA, and this post is hurtful to them. This is the antithesis of “empathetic.” I can only conclude that you mean to be hurtful.

  • Somehow it’s un-American for the census to count how many Americans are in America.

No one has suggested that it is “un-American” to count how many Americans are in America. What has been suggested (and mostly discounted as an administrative nightmare for anyone with nefarious purposes in asking the citizenship question) is that in the current anti-immigrant, “America First” political climate, the risks would present a real disincentive to participating in the census at all. Consider:

  • Russians influencing our elections are bad, but illegals voting in our elections are good.

Are you suggesting that Russians interfering in our elections is not bad? Is that something of a double-standard, to say, “It’s fine for foreigners to interfere in our elections, but only if our guy wins”? And who has ever suggested that undocumented immigrants (not “illegals,” please — many came here seeking asylum, quite legally, and in many cases due to our government’s intentional destabilization of their governments and their national economies). Do you honestly imagine that undocumented immigrants are lining up in droves to vote in our elections on US soil?

  • It was cool for Joe Biden to “blackmail” the President of Ukraine, but it’s an impeachable offense if Donald Trump inquires about it.

Joe Biden did not “blackmail” the President of Ukraine.

  • Twenty is too young to drink a beer, but eighteen is old enough to vote.

If eighteen is old enough to be sent to fight and die in war by old men who have no skin in the game, then you’re right — they should be allowed to drink a beer. Or a whole damned keg. Tell me one just war — one righteous war — that we have been involved with, without being deliberately misled about the facts, and with the intention and will to win, since WWII?

You want to honor our military? Our veterans? Stop sending young men to fight and die for oil or perceived insults to some politician’s daddy. Stop taking the best years of their lives — or their lives— from them. And stop fetishizing “military service.” Our veterans, for the most part, don’t want a perfunctory “Thank you for your service,” as much as they want you to read, understand, and uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — the values this nation once stood for, that they thought was what they were defending.

  • People who have never owned slaves should pay slavery reparations to people who have never been slaves.

People who continue to benefit from an inherently racist system that favors white people and does not, in fact, give Black people an equitable opportunity to succeed in this country owe reparations — what that means, exactly, I don’t know — but the sooner we work to dismantle the obstacles and bring everyone to the table, the sooner we can move on from this disingenuous notion that “racism is dead in America.” It is clearly not.

  • Inflammatory rhetoric is outrageous, but harassing people in restaurants is virtuous.

I’m not clear on this point about “inflammatory rhetoric” — perhaps you can explain it to me. Would that be describing Blacks using the n-word? Or perhaps just a woman saying “fuck”?

Oh, the calls for “civility” — when people are being kept in conditions you’d call “animal abuse” if it were dogs, not children. When people are being beaten and gassed in the streets for exercising their Constitutional rights to peacefully assemble, protest, and ask their government to redress their grievances? You haven’t heard inflammatory rhetoric yet — and I can’t feel too sorry for racists who are asked to leave restaurants.

Isn’t it Republicans who go on and on and on and on about businesses having a right to serve, or refuse service, to anyone they want? Last I checked, “racist bigots” were not a protected class of people at all, so again, I don’t understand what your problem is with them being asked to leave a restaurant.

  • People who have never been to college should pay the debts of college students who took out huge loans for their degrees.

People who have never been to college still need doctors, nurses, and other trained professionals, don’t they? Why do our property taxes go to fund public education at all? I don’t know about you, but value for my money is “to be surrounded by fewer uneducated bigots.” By the way, we’ve paid for two kids’ college educations. Without government assistance, and without putting them into massive amounts of debt. But you don’t see me bitching about other people’s kids getting either free tuition or debt forgiveness — because I believe in the importance of education as a societal good. I want that for anyone who wants it for themselves — and can earn it through academic hard work.

  • Immigrants with tuberculosis and polio are welcome, but you’d better be able to prove your dog is vaccinated.

Immigrants with tuber — what?? Is this even a thing, seriously? OK — if it is, we’re seriously comparing the value of humans to the value of dogs, and the dogs are coming out on top? What kind of messed up priorities do you have?

  • Irish doctors and German engineers who want to immigrate must go through a rigorous vetting process, but any illiterate gang-bangers who jump the southern fence are welcome.

So the Irish and Germans are the put-upon heroes of your “acceptable forms of immigrants” now? It’s always something with bigots. Let’s look at the history:

Back to Niemöller, eh? Or is that what bigots are really afraid of — they’ve spewed so much nastiness, over the years, that if all the bullied people of the world decided to gang up and get a few licks of their own in, there’d be no one to speak up for them?

Could be right.

  • $5 billion for border security is too expensive, but $1.5 trillion for “free” health care is not.

No — $5 billion for an ineffective, ugly wall and the taking of people’s property to build it is too expensive. Ever heard of an airplane? Tunnels? It’s a LONG coastline. What a money pit. There are much better alternatives. See

You’ve complained about the high costs of private insurance, prescription drugs, ambulance rides — and yet, universal healthcare would provide these things at a lower cost. Consider:

  • If you cheat to get into college you go to prison, but if you cheat to get into the country you go to college for free.

You think people who buy their kids’ way into college at the expense of more deserving students don’t deserve to go to prison?

You think the children of undocumented immigrants don’t deserve an education or other social services? You might want to rethink the economic value/cost proposition, here. Many undocumented workers do pay taxes, but get few, if any, benefits:

  • People who say there is no such thing as gender are demanding a female President.

Maybe everyone should be calling for more women as heads of state. We make great leaders. We’re not the ones screwing up the world right now, and in fact — those nations with women at the helm are doing better with the current pandemic, as well:

  • We see other countries going Socialist and collapsing, but it seems like a great plan to us.

Americans don’t know political theory from the funny papers. Do some research before labeling and damning progressives for calling for change and reform of broken systems. “Because Venezuela fucked up, we should keep our own fucked up system exactly as is” is hardly a logical argument. It is a fear-based argument, and only works for the people that the status quo is working for, and for those who really don’t give a rat’s ass about the people it’s not working for.

We put men on the moon. Surely we can fix our broken political, corporate, and social systems in this country.

  • Some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, and other people are not held responsible for what they are doing right now.

Being held responsible is not quite the same as being blamed, unless those people are at fault or continue to perpetrate the same kind of harm. For example, we are all responsible for mitigating climate change. We are not all to blame, but we are — if we vote to repeal environmental protections or limit sales of fuel-efficient vehicles that are available, even mandated, in Europe. Or if we do not hold corporations accountable for things like oil and chemical spills.

  • Criminals are catch-and-released to hurt more people, but stopping them is bad because it’s a violation of THEIR rights.

Due process is a right. In the U.S., people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“But people are not fish, and using a phrase, even one with the valence of a humane practice, serves to dehumanize the human beings being led away in handcuffs. The phrase actually describes allowing people who are seeking asylum to wait for their hearing in the community, rather than in custody. They are not freed, but tethered, always by law, often by more: Sometimes the asylum-seeker must wear an ankle monitor. Sometimes she must pay a bond. Sometimes the tether is administrative: checking in regularly with immigration officials.

It’s a lot easier to just say “catch and release,” but it’s inaccurate because it obscures all of those important points.”

and:

“The problem with dehumanizing metaphors, according to Caroline Tipler, a research social scientist at the American Bar Foundation who wrote her PhD dissertation on dehumanizing rhetoric in the immigration context, is that they seep into your brain and unconsciously frame the way you start to think about immigrants over time.”

From:

• And pointing out all this hypocrisy somehow makes us “racists”?!

No. Pretending you’re not racist makes you hypocrites.

“Nothing makes sense anymore, no values, no morals, no civility and people are dying of a Chinese virus.”

We clearly read a different Bible. And, by the way, viruses not only have no nationality, no ethnicity, no culture, no brains, no intent (malicious or otherwise), and are not even complete living organisms. They cannot reproduce outside of a host. That host was (most likely) bats. Remember the “Spanish flu”? Did you know that it originated in the U.S.? That’s right — the last major pandemic was an American virus. Beware pointing fingers, lest millions point back at you.

Prefacing this screed with “I’m not starting a fight” doesn’t prevent you from actually starting one, or from any reader believing you did not intend to do exactly that. It’s like starting a lie with, “Honestly,” or a rude insult with “No offense, but…”

With all due respect,
One who really does not want to start fights, but is not afraid to finish them.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; and A New Leaf for Lyle. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young at heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

If you are reading this on any site other than Medium or on jahangiri.us, the content may have been stolen.

Writer and Kid-at-Heart, often found at https://jahangiri.us. Subscribe to my (free!) Newsletter: https://hollyjahangiri.substack.com

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