Love and Hate. Intertwined, mysterious, ongoing. This past weekend I read a newspaper article about a young woman who blogs about the ongoing process of accepting her body as is. She is, by popular cultural standards, overweight. Over the years she has dealt with self-abusing thoughts, well intentioned but intentionally painful advice from loved ones, and out and out cruel comments from strangers.
Now that she has decided to love herself â€œas isâ€ and to invite others to see their own beauty and self-worth via blog-dom, she has discovered yet another realm and layer of cultural hate. She reports having received death threats for sending out her message that she, as a large woman, is happy, and yes, healthy.
Death threats, people! Hate mail. Angry â€œhow dare youâ€ responses to a woman inviting a fresh look at old biases. My ever-curious nature screams quietly into the hide and seek world of the Internet, â€œWhyyyyyyyyyy?â€
Having an opinion is normal, and most often, useful. Having an opinion that is nothing more than spittle-flecked vitriol is not. Where is this anger coming from? And why do so many who respond to blogs and news items hide behind anonymity as they spread their particular brand of venom? If a person is proud of what they say and stand for, why not own up to it? Why not have a legitimate conversation that respectfully delves into differences? Why not take the chance that both parties might learn something?
Let me give you an example. My mom insisted cigarette smoking extended her life after her cancer diagnosis. I didnâ€™t agree with her. In my panicked, prognosis-created, emotional state I told her why I didnâ€™t agree with her. I argued research as she shrugged her shoulders and blew smoke in my face.
Did I call her @#$%^& stupid? Did I lash out and wish her dead because she believed something I didnâ€™t? No I did not. Iâ€™m no angel, nor do I possess superior morals, health habits, or brains. I have my own vices, demons, and downfalls. What I had to say was based on love and no small amount of desperation. I wanted to know why she was choosing to continue a habit that exacerbated her condition.
The reality of her situation was that she believed smoking added to her life. Believed it with the stubborn faith of one enlightened. Maybe it was a rare pleasure she wasnâ€™t going to give up as her life waned. Maybe she truly felt smoking offset other symptoms. I donâ€™t know her motives, but I do know belief is a powerful thing. And, by the way, did she ever ask for my opinion about her smoking habits? Uh-uh.
Every week when I post my blogs I do invite feedback. Mostly Iâ€™m looking for stories from women because I know how much wisdom lies within each of us. It would hurt to have someone call me names and wish me a soon and sudden painful death just because I have an opinion that differed from hers. Thereâ€™s already a lot of hate in the world. Do we really need to create more?
Every day when I entered the building for radiation treatments, I was horrified at the cigarette litter outside the door. How could people fighting cancer still be smoking? It seemed ludicrous. I asked one of the technicians to explain it to me. She said that smoking is comforting to smokers, and asking them to give up this comfort at the moment in their lives when they needed comfort the most was too hard for most. I got it, Gail, but I also got your point. Calling them names and screaming at them would have been beyond cruel and hateful. Sometimes I think the strong reaction comes from an inability to face our own vices. Easier to condemn your vices than face my own. I loved the parable about first taking the log out of my eye before looking the speck in yours. I try to remember that when the log is out of my eye, THEN I can go after another person. OF COURSE, the log is NEVER out of mine, so I have too much to do right here!
Amen, Claudia, Amen.