I’ll admit, early in my Facebook days I got criticized for posting a picture of Honey Boo-Boo. I took my friend’s comment with grace, and vowed not to post any more pictures of Honey Boo-Boo, her family, or Walmart people. These days my Facebook page allows friends to disagree with me, but mostly we like to entertain and enlighten each other, play games, support each other through sadness and difficult times, share the highlights and triumphs of our lives, and even complain, occasionally.
I just couldn’t let this one go.
I commented to the poster, as did several of my left-leaning friends, that her picture was offensive; that hatefulness and disrespect are not “family values.” Then came the barrage of right-wing response from her friends. It was Stephen King-ish,* as if a portal to the underworld had opened, exposing a dark legion of teeth-gnashing, confederate flag-waving, gun-toting, Obama-hating venoms.
I’m not so naïve as to presume they haven’t existed all along. Crude, political humor has been around since newspapers began to be printed. Probably on stone walls, come to think of it. Even worse, we seem to have a “shooter of the week” these days, and people gather in great numbers to let us know that open-carry’s a cool thing, neo-nazis and white supremacists rule, and by cracky, the south may rise again. So I don’t need to be reminded that hateful, narrow-minded people roam the earth. I can look at the news any time.
You would be amazed (or maybe not) at how many people rallied to my erstwhile friend’s defense, telling her how much they enjoyed that picture. Comments directed at me ranged from “Get off Facebook!” to “Some people have no sense of humor,” “Just let it go!” “America was founded on hatred and disrespect,” and my personal favorite: “As a republican, I think a little poop is ok.”
Luckily, I’m striving to perceive events that sting as growth opportunities. (Or, as my father used to say, “With all this horseshit, there must be a horse in here somewhere.”) I remembered that I’d had a propensity to “stuff” my feelings. Early on, I learned that I would be safer if I kept my opinions to myself, thereby avoiding loud, scary, confrontational scenes. I adopted the groovy, “It’s all good” attitude, (which I still have, but with highly improved borders). All this culminated in a persona which did little more than merit me the status of either a doormat, or a mascot. My therapist characterizes this as “letting people throw their ca-ca at you.”
I imagined I was taking the high road by letting offensive insults and degradations “roll by." But they didn’t, really. I caught them and stuffed them deep inside where they festered, because the aggressors always got away with the abuse, and they and I both knew it.
Stuffing is dangerous stuff! Think of it as a figurative, psychological form of packing peanuts that can manifest in all sorts of ways that compromise a person’s health, well-being, self-esteem, and personal appearance.
So which is more painful? Standing one’s ground, opening up to the possibility of insult, discouragement, harassment, denial and ridicule? Or stuffing one’s feelings, prompting the cumulative regret of never having said how you really feel (plus all those psychological packing peanuts)?
I’m passing on the stuffing. In fact, I’m on an endeavor to let all my old, accumulated packing peanuts go! The sensation of standing my ground has become deliciously empowering, and I get better with practice. As for the insults, I figure I can easily rinse them off in the shower.
* I like Stephen King! I didn’t for a long time, until I read 11/22/63, prompting a 180° reversal on my part. I haven’t stopped loving his writing since.