Unworthy: Missing Chapter #1

You didn’t know who Candace Owens was? never heard of her? and sent me her video in defense of your position? Lol, Jesus Paul, how am I supposed to take you seriously?

The setting is Wednesday, June 3, 2020. It’s 3:39 pm. A friend just sent Sally a video of a young black woman opining about the new wave of aggrandizement, as she sees it, over George Floyd, the black man horrifically murdered by Minneapolis police officers. An hour or two had passed before I viewed the video and, in between receiving the video and watching it, I posted to Facebook an opinion, stating matter-of-factly, that systemic racism does not exist in America.

I offered no explanation for my opinion. It’s Facebook. No essay was called for nor did I think one was required. Logic, I presumed, was enough to validate my comment. Those of my “friends” who think logically would understand and those who do not or cannot, for a variety of reasons about the subject of race, would miss its obviousness.

As it happened, one son-in-law of mine fell into the latter category. And he let me know it.

My son-in-law (SIL for brevity) began a series of rebuttals with a blunt attack on my comment that quickly slid into an angry tirade about me personally. He was not being kind. Given our history, I figured the extent and degree of animosity within his words must have felt good for him to get his feelings off his chest. And I said the same in reply. I also included a link to a video I had just viewed minutes earlier. I said, “argue with her.”

He then went off on her briefly. Unfortunately, as it turned out, he was not interested in listening to anyone who supports Donald Trump (she does, I do not). Although, given the stridency of his opinion of her, my SIL must have heard of her or heard her speak at some point. Regardless, he was sure I was long familiar with the woman, Candace Owens. And, in his mind, why wouldn’t I be familiar with her? He disdains her, hates me, and I sent him her video. Hence, I must be her long-dedicated follower.

My connection to her was completely serendipitous. My SIL implied that being old, white, and from Utah that I did not know what I was talking about. Well, Candace Owens is young, black, and not from Utah. I thought her argument would suffice. It did not. Truth did not matter to him and, as will become obvious, his motive was singular and not intended to make any other point than he hates me.

________________

A month prior to this dust-up, Sally and I decided to rummage through bins and boxes of old family photos. In the mix was a nearly 20-year old email I had once sent to my future SIL. The letter expressed my concerns about him. I was not thrilled he was intent on marrying my oldest daughter, Emily. I was blunt – I was concerned, for several reasons, that he would grow away and distracted from faith and family. Ultimately, I was concerned he would one day let down Emily in the most fundamental aspects of being a good husband.

“Here is that letter you sent to [SIL],” she said. Without hesitation, I replied, “Just throw it away.” “You don’t want to read it?” came the curiosity. No, I didn’t. I had read it many times over the preceding 20 years. “Just throw it away. I know what it says.”

There are two communications in my life I wish I had not made. A son came home from his two-year church mission only hours after having been dropped off at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. I was disappointed, even disgusted, that he would not keep his commitment. In a series of communications with him, I said some hard things that today I deeply regret saying. Perhaps we, dads, justify hard language with our children thinking (i.e. gambling) that they will see the light. But light is not what they see when unconvinced and undeterred. When my son came home from his mission, just as when my SIL married my daughter, hard words stick and, at least in the case of my SIL, are never forgotten or forgiven.

Most of the future behavior I predicted from my SIL has come to pass – and, perhaps, that fulfillment has added prideful fuel to his fiery words and hardened his heart. I don’t know. But this I do know: My SIL loathes me.

Throughout my career in politics and public policy, I have been the target of many ideologues who loathe me. Irate strangers have phoned my house to insult me. I have been told to do things to myself that are humanly impossible. More than one person has wished I would die in the most creative ways. But never have I felt so disrespected than how I felt reading my SIL’s words on Facebook.

Here is the meat of his initial rebuttal:

Well there you have it folks, White boomer culture has spoken (don’t worry, they know right from wrong!) and the good news is there isn’t any systemic racism anymore!

Sarcasm aside Paul, why do you post things like this? Why are you so comfortable making authoritative statements about things you have virtually no experience in? Because you’re not just wrong, you’re embarrassingly wrong. You’re like a caricature of the out-of-touch, middle-class, conservative male, sitting in the White suburbs of White Utah, telling Black people what they are actually experiencing.

And asking everyone to chill? Jesus Paul, you sound like the absolute epitome of White privilege. Something has to change whether you’re willing to acknowledge it or not, and ‘chilling’ isn’t going to do it. I don’t want to see violence, I don’t think any decent person does, but there is a breaking point and when enough people are suffering and hit that point, what options are left but violence? Not to mention the fact that most of the protesting is peaceful, and overly-aggressive policing is creating as much interpersonal violence as anything. I guess I find it sadly telling that you’re more concerned about the symptoms of the problem and less on the underlying roots.

This is harsh, but based on my own experiences with you, I suspect you’re incapable of empathizing with anything outside of your own lived experience. That said, I think it would serve you well to talk (and type) less and start listening more, especially to those that have lived dramatically different lives from your own. If you’re capable of it, you might actually learn and grow as a human being and a Christian.

Admittedly, I have written several self-righteous rebuttals like this one. And as self-righteous rebuttals go, my SIL’s rebuttal is, well, polite up to this point. It has just enough snark in it to let the reader know that further rebuttals won’t be so polite. And they weren’t.

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