“In the past I don’t think I have expressed my opinions as freely as I should have. Before now I have felt intimidated by opinionated people and rarely did I oppose them for that reason. Everyone should be able to say what they think, but in a way that does not degrade any particular person for their beliefs.”
5/19/99 webpage post
I was reading my very first webpage post from 5/19/99 the other day and I was struck by the above excerpt. It’s remarkably wise for my immature and inexperienced twenty year-old self. I’m pretty sure I talked a big talk, but didn’t live up to it in real life. Even so, my thinking was on the right track at a young age. Unfortunately I met my ex-husband a couple of years later and over the course of our eleven year relationship I was groomed to keep any displeasure to myself. I’ve written about emotional abuse in my marriage before and this was another aspect of it. Anytime I expressed unhappiness I was somehow persuaded into thinking that everything was my fault and that I should fix the problem on my own (whether or not I caused it) and keep quiet about it. It was a real step backwards in my personal development. Eventually I came to the miraculous realization I that I didn’t need to live that way! I rescued myself from that toxic relationship and a lifetime of misery with someone who didn’t respect me.
Now that I’m older and finally free to be whoever I want I am relearning the same lessons that I did back in college. Not long ago there was an incident at work where I was compelled to shut down hate speech. Working closely with a lot of people I am fully aware that we all have differing opinions, and we are entitled to them, but there are lines that I am not willing to tolerate being crossed in my presence. So when I heard a co-worker expressing anti-Muslim sentiments there was no way I could let it go. In no uncertain terms I informed him that his conversation was not appropriate for work. I didn’t try to correct his views (although I consider them repulsive – I respect all religions while not being religious myself), but made sure that he knew that he should not be discussing them at our place of employment. I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking because he ignored me and kept talking. So I raised my voice and forcefully said, “I’m not kidding, that is not an appropriate topic of conversation at work.” (As a side note, internally I feared I was being bitchy. Thanks to society women are conditioned to be pleasant all the time or risk being considered bitches, but that didn’t stop me from standing my ground when he didn’t shut up.) So what was the response after my second admonition? “I thought this was a free country.” Seriously? This made me even angrier than the initial religion bashing. Some people don’t understand that free speech means that in the United States you can’t be arrested or executed for your opinions, but it does not mean you are completely free from the consequences of what you choose to say. Hate speech can absolutely get you fired. My blood was boiling at this point, but I had a job to do so I got back to it. Later that day I described the incident to a manager because I think all employees have an obligation to stop this despicable sort of discrimination. Fortunately management took my report seriously and the situation was quickly dealt with. Still, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It blows my mind that people walk around with so much hate. Our world would be a much more harmonious place without it.