For those of you who know me a little, I might appear to be polite, "nice", maybe a little innocent or naive or shy. For those who know me a little more, you might add "kind" but remove the "innocent". If you think about it, hell if I think about it, you may come to the conclusion that I am one of those people who wants to be liked. However, the reality is that I truly just want to be understood, and second to that respected for the truth of who I am, even if you don't like that person. In all honesty, I can be a little mean, I can certainly be bitchy. I am the Queen of Whine, Sarcasm, and Understatement. Above all else, I strive to be Fair. In a disagreement, I want all parties to understand each other and hopefully respect each other's positions - I will usually break out into "moderator" mode to attempt accomplishing this. I find willful blindness infuriating. If you are going to hate something, you sure better understand it completely before you pass judgement. And for fuck's sake, be civil about it.
So it was more than a little surprising to me when I found myself banned from an Atheist forum. I was more than a little bit hurt. Being a Stay-at-Home Mom to a little one who doesn't yet talk, it was a nice place to find a few minutes (ok, hours) a day to rub some brain cells together and enjoy some adult conversation. Of course, that really depends on your definition of adult, but I at least always attempted to remain adult and civilized on the forum.
I was actually getting a bit annoyed with some of the members of the forum. It was getting a little predictable - far too many "let's bash religion X" posts, far too few topics that required critical thinking. I'm hard pressed to think of a single new thing I learned over the course of the few months I was active. Other than atheists have about as much in common as any two religious individuals picked at random. Or that interacting with so many people who do not speak English as their first language and who have so little in common can be quite eye-opening and frustrating and nerve-wracking.
But I tried. I really, really did. On occasion, I did stoop to berating the willfully ignorant. I'm not proud of this. But when everyone else is doing it, and the person is making you just so angry, it's a bit difficult to resist the temptation to drop the pretense of rational, civil discussion and just let loose your own angry tirade.
As far as I can tell, my few slips into confrontational jerkism had nothing to do with my ban. I usually received a pat on the back. And always, always the instigator of assholistic ignorance in these circumstances was banned. Let me repeat that: every time I stooped to a low level, the person I deemed to attack was banned, I was usually congratulated and/or agreed with, and no one on "my" side was banned.
So finding myself banned has me scratching my head. I have gone over and over in my head what could have caused it. I had few interactions in the 24 hours prior to my discovery of the ban. Oh, FYI, Facebook does not tell you when you're banned. And when you are banned from a Closed Group, you can't see the page any longer. Facebook somehow takes direct links out of your history for crying out loud. Searching for the group does not pull them up. In order to confirm that the group did not simply disband, I had someone else search for the group on another account from a different device. The group still exists, it still displays over a thousand members, it's still listed as a Closed group that displays the +Join option to another Facebook user.
So, was I accidentally deleted in a large culling of the ranks? A Group Admin had asked the Group if it was time to do this the previous day, but before an official decision was announced, that discussion devolved into some discussion of some sci-fi reference I didn't understand.
Was it my response to the member who asked how the (Christian) lunatics could be running the asylum? I rambled off a few things about Christianity contradicting itself that really bugged me, like hatred of "unnatural" gays born in a world created by a "God" who is the creator of all life in all forms who thus by definition cannot be unnatural or a mistake. How did all-powerful God allow Satan, his creation, to rebel? Why does he let the guy stick around? I mentioned a particular lack of understanding of American Christians, since Americans seem to share a DNA quirk of hating any sort of tyranny or rule by anyone other than the self, and yet American Christians are perfectly willing, happy even, to bow down and worship a God who allows so much human suffering. End comment. No anger, no bad words, just an honest feeling of dismay. The original poster "Liked" my post.
Was it my post in a L-O-N-G thread that had turned in a new direction the day before when I posted something about Evolution? My post this day began with "Way to take my analogy and run way, way left field with it guys." It went on to explain that I hadn't posted about evolution to somehow say I doubted it, but that there had been some arguing about "faith" and "belief" and some others had made comments about how frustrating the English language can be when we don't all agree on our definitions - because this was really what was at the core of this "argument", differing definitions of "faith" and "belief" - and so I posted a link to how scientists can't even agree on whether Evolution is theory or fact or theory AND fact. We had been arguing semantics, I was annoyed and so brought up another argument of semantics, and I come back the next day and my comment had begun a new argument of semantics. I also called out one person and asked him why he thought this other person was an evolution denier, when in truth he had never said such a thing but rather was trying to explain why he was in the camp of evolution still being "theory".
The Group Admin "Liked" my post. He responded with something along the lines of "and thus the evolution of a post." I loved that. I hit "Like" on his post. The end.
So we arrive to the my third and last interaction with the group. Someone had posted a link to and a copy/paste of a cutesy, feel good story about a professor on the first day of classes explaining to his students about how to important it is to pay attention to the big things in life that are the real influences on your happiness, to see how small and insignificant the rest of your life's annoyances are - basically, prioritize your relationships. Well, it so happens this professor thought that an important relationship, the first one to mention even, was a person's relationship with "God". sigh. So instead of ignoring that part and seeing the post for what it was - a nudge to remember what's important in life and not sweat the small stuff, most of the responses were negative. They ranged from "what's this drivel doing in an atheist forum?" to "I read up until "God" and then just heard blah, blah, blah" to "I have to read this shit every day, I shouldn't have to read it here". sigh. My response to all of this was something about how I was glad this was posted here, because I can use every nudge I can get to remember to step back and remember my priorities. It's too easy to get sucked into silly Facebook discussions and it's nice to get a reminder to look away and listen to my husband read to my daughter. This post is reminding us that relationships are what's important in life. Some people have a relationship with God, I don't, so I skip over that part.
Within minutes, the Group Admin, the same one whose play on words about evolution I liked so much in the other discussion, posted something along the lines of "Having a relationship with god is akin to having a relationship with the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus." That was ALL he said.
I was frustrated. He seemed to overlook what I'd said about appreciating the nudge to cherish what I cherish in life. He was focusing on the silliness of belief in God.
I have not yet mentioned that the earlier "argument" about the words "faith" and "belief" were between myself, the person accused of being an evolution denier, and a 3rd person I'll call SB. SB had become a bit of a thorn in my side, constantly putting down anything that mentioned faith, belief, religion, or "God"/god. He was really coming across as if he merely wanted the Forum to be a place where everyone either agreed with each other on how awesome atheism was, or spent their time attacking religion. No critical thought or debate or shades of gray or thoughtfulness. Just "agree with me" or "stand with me to hate them". He was the one who said he only heard "blah,blah,blah" after the word "God" came up in that silly copy/paste story about the professor. When someone called him on it, he followed that with the comment about not having to read shit like that "here". Because obviously his life is so tainted by religion, he has no tolerance for it, and wants this to be a place to go to hold up and not deal with it. I hope you are all following the irony of a person tired of religion thinking that an atheist forum is going to be a place of refuge free from discussions of religion.
SB was getting on my last nerve. That the Group Admin was giving him, and everyone else being negative about the post, a free pass to be snide against anything that dare mention "God", really chapped my ass. I waited and dwelled and considered. I took my time. Finally, I came up with a thoughtful response.
I addressed it to the Group Admin my name, and it was something along the lines of "Group Admin, your post gives the impression that you are in the camp with SB that anything/anyone that mentions god/religion is crap. I find this mentality infuriating. 99% of the people that I hero worship have/had some sort of religious belief: Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Anne Rice… Where would we be if we threw out everything ever made/created/discovered/said by someone of faith?" And I think, or at least I am very, very sure, that was all I said.
Because I was getting very, very tired of the constant need to put down everything and everyone associated with any and all religions. And the Group Admin wasting a chance to call someone, namely SB, on that position got on my last nerve. And so I said something about it. Something calm and rational. The most incendiary thing I said was the word "infuriating". I didn't say he pissed me off, or SB pissed me off, or even the discussion or any single post pissed me off. I said a particular mind-set made me mad, and it seemed that he shared it. This left room for discussion. Was that really the impression he was trying to give? If so, why? If not, call me on it.
No one responded. I went to bed shortly after this. The next morning, I dreaded going to Facebook. I shouldn't have used the word "infuriating". I shouldn't have used it when addressing the group admin. I shouldn't have lumped him in with someone I was annoyed with because he was flippant. sigh I had gone overboard and I was about to be called out for it. Dammit! But when I finally logged on to Facebook, there were no notifications from the board. No one had responded to what I'd said. Huh.
About an hour later, still no response. That's kind of odd. Considering I had left comments on 3 discussions and I should have expected a notification of someone having said something after me in at least one of them, even if it wasn't a direct response to me. I should have gotten some sort of notification about some discussion on the board. And I had none. I opened my Notifications and there were none from the group the day before. Or the day before that. Or… ever. I looked at my Facebook Page in various places and couldn't find anything about the group, nothing that I had ever said there, no mention of me being a part of it. Was it because it was a closed group? I did a search. The group did not come up. I searched my history. My history was blank except for one place, and when I clicked on it, it said the Page could not be Found.
I had Eric search for the group. He found it. I could not even find them in a Search.
I was banned.
No notice. No message. No warning. No evidence I had ever even been there.
Holy Fucking Shit.
It hurt. I'm not going to lie. I do want to be liked. I appreciated the brain stimulation. But what really bothered me was that I had been misunderstood. Somehow, somewhere, I had said something that a Group Admin had believed was offensive. And I had never, ever meant to be offensive to anyone. Not only was I misunderstood, but I was misunderstood on such a grand scale that I was cut off. I was silenced. I was never going to be given the opportunity to explain myself. I was never going to be given to the opportunity to be understood. I was never going to understand why I was not understood.
It was all so trivial. It was tame. It wasn't mean. It was rational. The only swear word I used was "crap".
I don't want to be part of a group like that. I was quickly coming to the realization that they could be just as closed-minded and bigoted a group as a bunch of Fundamentalist Christians.
But I wasn't given the opportunity to air my grievances properly.
And none of us are going to understand each other because the conversation was cut-off mid-sentence.
If only there was a way to go back, read the last page like Harry in "When Harry Met Sally". I will never solve this puzzle because the mean kid packed away all the pieces and took the whole thing home with him.
Bastards. Mother Fucking Cunt-Ass-Bitch Mother Fuckers!