A thing I’m thinking tonight is how a lot of the current discourse seems to assume that someone must be Evil and Inhuman and Completely Incapable of Being Reasoned with in order for you to make the decision to cut them out of your life and community.
Like. It feels like a big part of the drive to declare horrible groups as having lost their status to be considered human beings is because people don’t know how to deal with humanity in the people that hurt them; humanity in people that do horrible things.
They have to be not worthy of basic human rights, they have to be not worthy of being within the rules of society, because otherwise you can’t be as cold to them as you need to be for your own safety and well-being.
So here’s a thing.
I love my dad. I believe that he loves me. And I spent *years* thinking this meant he couldn’t possibly be “really” abusing me or I couldn’t possibly be “really” that unhappy.
And my dad, my dad. My dad is a *champion* gaslighter. My dad can make you think up is down. My dad can make you apologize for that thing he did. My dad can make you question your own memory, your own judgement, your own motivations.
People compliment me sometimes, on the thorough way I construct arguments, on how meticulously I go through point by point, addressing every possible angle– and I don’t think these people know that that was the only way I ever learned how to believe my own viewpoints–was when I built my case like a lawyer and closed all the loopholes and carefully documented every single scrap of evidence so I would be sure– sure– *sure.*
And I spent so very long trying wishing for that evidence that would prove he was Really Bad or he Really Didn’t Care or he Really Intended to Hurt Me with those things he did. I had stories in my head of what would finally let me make that break, let me make him not a person, let me make him someone I didn’t love, who didn’t love me.
So here’s the thing.
You don’t need a reason other than that you’re hurting.
You don’t have to know they can’t be reasoned with to not reason with them.
You don’t have to know that they don’t deserve compassion to not offer them yours.
You don’t have to know that their motivations are evil–you don’t have to scry their intentions like tea leaves at all. You can just know that you want to be happy, and that you’re not. You can just know that what you need is incompatible with what they do.
If you’re looking for a reason to go, you can go.
And the thing is, you really *don’t* have to deny their humanity, and you definitely don’t have to abandon your own. You don’t even have to stop loving them, if you don’t want to.
There is no cruelty required to say “enough.” There is no hatred or violent offense needed to draw your line and defend it. There is no obligation from you to either love or to not love, and regardless of either, you do not have to act on it.
Their own love, their intentions, their kindnesses, their complex humanity does not buy them any part of you. You do not owe them your company, you do not owe them your time or attention or your engagement with their arguments–you do not owe them your self.
You can hate, if you want, but you do not have to.
They can be human, and complicated, and worthy of many things beyond basic human dignity, but you do not have to be the one to give those things to them.
There are a million million humans on this planet. They can be one of them.
They can be human and that’s it.
That can be all they get. They can have their life, and their choices, and their ability to be kind or cruel, to be loved or hated, to befriend of drive away. They can have every dignity that you believe that every human in this world should have, and there does not have to be a single one of them that requires you to let them hurt you, to let them hurt others, to let them have anything from you that you do not whole-heartedly want to give.
You can protect yourself. You can go after what you need.
Because you’re a human, too. And they don’t have have to acknowledge that for it to be true.