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