Monday, October 1, 2012

In Childhood Dreamings Unimagined

You know that feeling you have as a small child? That once you grow up, the world will make sense. The you will find a rhyme and reason, a pattern to things. That whatever your childhood dumps on you, it'll be ok someday, because someday you'll be an adult. Gods, I hate that feeling now.

Why? Because every time I turn around, I realize a) I still have a bit of it, and b) the cosmos has an infinite number of way to beat me over the head with it. We're going to talk about my mother today, Herr Dr. Internets. I'll just stretch out on this virtual couch, shall I?

My mother is, as all persons are, complex. I can't make unqualified statements about her, except that I love her. She's a sometime saint and frequent bigot; a fundamentalist doomsday Roman Catholic, and a mother raising her children to survive an ongoing world; she's a true genius, but also a Renaissance woman who prefers the methods of pre-Industrial America.

This woman has both pulled me through and put me through more hell than I can describe in one place comfortably. On the one hand, when I pulled crazy bullshit as a teen, she was standing there to keep me from losing everything. On the other hand, she drove me back into the closet three times and raised me knowing I was gay but still punishing any behavior that smacked of gender nonconformity.

For the good she's done, I've spent years as an apologist for the "quirks" she has. I tell stories on my mom a lot and though I try to balance them between accomplishments and quirks, the end result is often "geez, dude, your mom is nuckin' futs."

So I explain. I clarify her point of view. I clarify the point of view of the church she belongs to. I have spent more time in theological debate over why my mother thinks the way she does than I have actually talking to my mother. And that's over a period of five years. Turns out, this was a huge mistake.

Yesterday I sat down with my mom to finish a discussion we'd started over the phone. Quick back story: she'd said, through text, she wanted me to come back to the church. I called her and explained what's going on with the Catholic church right now. Since mom was in the middle of dinner, we decided to postpone since I was visiting my grandmother (who lives with my parents) and we could have the talk in person. Which brings us to yesterday.

Coffee was made and poured, I hunted down an ashtray, and we began. I'm a very humanist thinker, given to logical trains of thought and clarity of wording. If you say it to me in a debate, damn well know that what you say and how you say it aren't the same thing to me. If you mean one thing, but say something that doesn't quite mean what you intended I will call you on it.

My mother is the exact opposite style of debate. She interrupts a lot to restate her positions, or to demand clarification. My mother is, to date, the only person on the planet that causes me to consistently want to scream "what do you mean, what do I mean?" as a matter of course. She is also the only person I know who can inject enough ambiguity into a statement to allow her to completely change its meaning anywhere from 2 minutes to 10 years later...and leave you wondering if that's what she meant all along.

Long story short, it's a headache talking about anything more complex than the weather, especially if it's something we both have strong views about.

Consequently, the discussion lasted four hours. I won't detail all the arguments and counterarguments made. Just know it would have gone on longer, but for one thing: we hit an ideological impasse.

After hearing the dozens of arguments and tricks of rhetoric and sophistry that allow her to make sweeping statements and then argue the opposite on a detail level without opposing said sweeping statement, I finally made the argument I've wanted to make for years.

"But Mom, 'love the sinner, hate the sin' hurts people. It's dehumanizing, it assumes an entire group of people will be willing to give up a major part of the pursuit of happiness to satisfy an abstract being for the promise of getting to be with that being! It assumes that you are willing to hurt yourself in the name of a being, and the reward is spending eternity in that being's presence!"

Well, she nods and starts to congratulate me for getting it, and explain why it's so. I interrupted her.

"But mom, can't you see that's a horrific argument? It only works because you use God to prop it up!"

Her response?

"Well, of course I can see that if God wasn't part of the equation, it would be a rotten argument. But He is part of the equation, so this is how it has to be."

Yes. My mother holds the same ideological fervor that powers fanatics. For her, the beliefs, the dogma, are simply extensions of faith and following them is an act of faith. There is no question in her mind that though it would be horrible to inflict this on someone without a God to back her up, her God does back her up. And because God says so, the horror simply disappears and is no longer part of the equation.

I am...sickened beyond any means to describe. I've defended her point of view for years, to my shame, without realizing how perfectly fundamental it was. Simply saying "it's God's will" makes a horror not only acceptable, but righteous.

No more. I will never willingly have this conversation with my mother again. I will neither broach it to her, nor bring up her point of view except tangentially to anyone else. I will not defend her point of view, though I will defend her right to hold it. And I will not even mention, after this point, that she holds these views excepting that it is necessary to explain the foundations of my own.

What has this to do with childish thinking? Well, I had always thought that when I grew up and learned more, I'd be able to have an intelligent dialogue with my mother that didn't end with "Because I said so" or "Because God." And come to find out, that's her entire operating principle. For everything. Ever.

Godsdamnit, I'm tired of being hit over the head with childhood naivete.


  1. Replies
    1. *hugs back* I know, twin. Just sucks all around.

  2. I'm sorry you learned that your mother is a religious fanatic and probably thinks you are going to "hell" for being gay. If we're going to hell, at least all of our friends will be there too! *hugs*

    1. Heh, I knew she was nuts, I just didn't realize the depth and strength of it. And yeah, my sister's driving the bus! *hugs back*

  3. I know I already said it before but I sorry hon. I know it's miserable when this kinda shit happens. Don't ever lose that child like naivete. It sucks sometimes but it's something every adult should fight to hold onto.

    1. I'm trying, hun. Just getting tired of being hit in the face with it.