About eight to ten years ago, I became largely silent on ideology and sociopolitical writing and talk. Lately, I’ve been considering the effects of not speaking up. The decision to remain mostly silent grew out of two separate circumstances. Trolls on the internet and having a president in the White House that spoke many of my mindsets. I felt like it was a little unfair to press family or friends with my views when others spoke them better and lurkers on the internet seemed to be getting riled up by them.
Around that time, I got in a strange argument with an extended member of my family. He was about twenty years younger than me, and he had a rage response that scared me a little. The trigger for his rage was a comment I made about a movie we went to as a family. In an attempt to find something positive about Transformers 2, I said “I thought it was neat how they snuck the alternative theory for the building of the pyramids in there.” He jumped into the conversation and said “you’re stupid to believe in things like that.”
Taking it as a teaching moment I said something like, ‘I didn’t say I believed in it’, and ‘how do you think the pyramids were built.’ He started to relate the silly notion once taught in the sixth grade that the stone blocks were rolled on tree logs. I ended up getting a little cheeky, voicing both sides of an old joke from my childhood:
“Where’d they get all those trees?
“Why from the Sahara Forest, of course.
“I thought the Sahara was a desert.
“Well it is now!”
He became livid and turned a bright red, as if being bullied or ridiculed, but I didn’t mean it that way. If his wife, my niece, hadn’t been there to calm him down, things could have taken a dark turn. Over the next few months, in the early days of Facebook, he started attacking me under links to blogs I posted, calling me names and such, silencing any friendly discussion that might happen.
Lifetime, me and this family member have had four discussions. One in person about the pyramids, and three where he trolled me on the internet. Knowing what I know now about the gaslighting by some family members, I believe he was set up to hate me before we ever met. Apparently some of my internet lurkers were family members who never talked with me about my writing.
So I became largely silent in my family, and now I notice they’ve all slipped backwards. I listen to discussions with fake facts and unverified advertiser’s claims and false notions, and I don’t challenge them. Knowing that friends have believed some of the lies spread around about me, and knowing that those lies were spread around because of resentment of my advanced education, and knowing that I have lost jobs over those lies, I’ve let people live with their falsities. I don’t want to trigger anything.
Maybe that’s a mistake given where we are as a nation…and how far backwards we seemed to have slipped. Being silent never means that I agree with someone else, and speaking an idea doesn’t mean I believe in it. There’s not a whole lot I do believe in. The intellectual practice of putting forward a position or playing devil’s advocate (the dialectic anyone…?) is completely lost in American conversation, it seems. Or maybe I’m just hanging out with the wrong mob.