Crystal was angry. In the sixteen years I’d known her, she’d always been angry. But now, she was angry at me. So angry that she un-friended me on Facebook. Why? What had I done that was so terrible?
Well, that’s a long story…
Crystal was a single black teenage mother. Her child’s father was in jail. She had no prospects for supporting herself. She was a stereotype, and also my wife’s sister.
I had no warning when my wife asked if Crystal and her daughter could move in with us. As far as I knew, they were going back to New York with the rest of her family. But before the van door closed, the question was put to me. I had about five seconds to decide.
The very possibility of this question being asked had never occurred to me, much less an answer. I didn’t really want to do it, but I said, “Yes,” anyways.
Was it Christian kindness? Nope, I’m an atheist.
Was it because I’m such a virtuous person filled with desire to do good and unselfish deeds? I doubt it.
Was it because of guilt over my White Privilege and my societal debt to make up for the injustice of slavery? Get the fuck out of here with that shit. I owe nothing to no one.
Was it just because I’m a nice guy? Perhaps, but did you know that the original meaning of “nice,” was to be foolish?
Or was it because I didn’t want to get in a fight with my wife and hear about my denial for years on end? Well, this is a whole lot closer to the actual truth. I gave up resources in order to avoid agitation.
But whatever the reason or combination of reasons, I said “Yes.”
This momentous question and answer was posed on the very day that my wife and I were moving into a new residence, one which ‘just happened’ to have a spare bedroom, for Crystal and her three-year-old daughter to move into. What a coincidence.
It seemed to me that this had all been planned out well in advance, without consulting the person who bore the greatest burden. This service I provided was neither “owed,” nor “earned,” it was an act of extortion that looked like charity. Someone was being ‘exploited,’ someone of a particular gender, complexion, and tax bracket.
Yes the rich white man, the supposed oppressor of the world, might have harbored a few resentments, but no one cares about the resentments of rich white men, so he kept them to himself.
Crystal went out of her way to not be a bother, in fact, I barely spoke to her. She was typically in her room, door closed, silent. Her daughter on the other hand, was an outgoing three-year-old, curious about everything, and particularly in me.
I suppose it was because I’d talk to her, answer her questions (over and over), and show her how to do things, like draw a cloud and seagull. Simple stuff. The kind of thing you’d do with any kid, right? Well, maybe not. One day while watching me play with the kid, Crystal said to my wife, “I wish we had white parents.”
It was one of the most astonishing things I had ever heard. I had been raised and educated with the liberal idea that everyone is the “same,” that “people are people,” that everyone was on board with Whitney Houston singing, “I believe that children are the future.”
But here my presumptions about the world were being challenged, not by some far-right ideologue, or the Ku Klux Klan, but by a black woman in my own kitchen as her child played on the floor before me. It was like a splinter in my brain. An annoying little bit of data that challenged my entire world view.
Now I’m certainly not a representative for all White parents, just as Crystal was not for all Black parents, but her statement was not completely without justification. As I would later learn, child abuse rates among African-American families are nearly twice as high as Whites, and nearly ten-times higher than among Asians.
So for Crystal to consider it “white” to do anything other than scold or spank a child wasn’t entirely mistaken. I supposed that she had learned it from her parents, as they had learned it from the previous generation. Perhaps you could even say it was a “legacy of slavery,” in which obedience and physical punishment went hand in hand.
Maybe. It’s possible.
But even if so, it is also possible for people to change. All they have to do is “decide.” Not wish, not hope, not make excuses about the legacy of past injustice, but simply “decide,” right here, right now.
Crystal was probably some sort of expert on the “legacy of slavery,” since she was constantly reading books like, “The A-Z Guide To Black Oppression,” “Angry Black Girl,” and so on. The general theme of these sorts of books are that the reader is a victim of ancient history and present racism.
If it ever occurred to Crystal that the “legacy of slavery” did not cause her to have unprotected sex with a deadbeat, nor was “racism” now providing the roof over her head, food on her plate, or funds in her paycheck, I certainly never heard of it. Such ideas are highly resistant to reality.
Given a choice between accepting personal responsibility, or playing the angry victim, the victim was far more appealing. After all, if nothing is your fault, and all can be blamed on others, it dulls the pain of poor decisions, and even has a kind of unearned glory to it.
About a year into this arrangement, I agreed to host another visitor. The guy was a friend of my wife’s friend from Australia. He needed a place to stay for a few days as he was beginning a trip across America. Well, it turned out the guy was an unemployed alcoholic drug user without enough money to fund his trip. But he never moved on, he moved in.
Another parasite – err, I mean guest – at the Dennis Hotel and Homeless Shelter. Someone was being “exploited” and “victimized” in this scenario. I don’t think he was mentioned in any of Crystal’s literature, but I suspected I was seeing an awful lot of him in the mirror.
Within a few months, Crystal was pregnant again. Wow. Pretty fucking stupid. I mean, all that reading about “girl power” and it never occurred that she had the power to buy a condom? Or say no? Anyways, the deadbeat from Australia decided he was going to move Crystal and kin down under with him, and though this clown could not even take care of himself, I zipped my lips and waved goodbye.
I had my own problems to deal with. Lots of them. All this was taking place during the dot.com bust and I was definitely getting busted. As the money ran out, so did my wife.
To say this was a difficult time would be an understatement, (and I’m leaving a lot out) but I blamed no one but myself. I bore no ill-will toward anyone. If I were a victim, then it was only a result of my own decisions.
I hoped that everyone would go on to have happy and fruitful lives, particularly me, but woe be to anyone who got in my way. My ex-wife then got in my way.
She began suing me for alimony. The chances of success of this effort, as well as my feelings about it, could be summed up in three words: No. Fucking. Way.
And so began a rather nasty legal battle, one in which the only winners would be lawyers. I didn’t care. I would die before I’d become a slave. And let’s be clear, unless there are children involved, alimony is slavery. What else would you call living off the labor of another person?
How ironic, that I, the white male patriarch, the supposed oppressor of the world, was to be enslaved by a black woman. History is not without a sense of humor, although it was not very funny at the time.
This battle went on for quite awhile, and then one day, much to my surprise and delight, it stopped. It turned out that in discussing the situation, Crystal had told my ex-wife, “Dennis has done enough for us. Leave him alone.”
Wow! And so just like that I was set free. My life was saved. My good deed in saving Crystal had not gone un-rewarded. And though that may have made us “even,” I still felt that I owed her one.
Years went by, and though I was seldom in contact with Crystal, we became Facebook friends. I still wished her well, but it seemed to be going otherwise. Now with a third child and abandoned by the dipshit who’d brought her to Australia, she was on welfare, with poor prospects for improvement.
Oh, and she was angry as ever. In her Facebook posts she would rage against racism, misogyny, homophobia, Halloween costumes, dolls made from the wrong color wool, you name it. Crystal had become a full blown “Social Justice Warrior.”
This should be no surprise whatsoever. For just as I had “given up resources to avoid agitation” when I agreed to let Crystal move in all those years ago. The war for “Social Justice” is the same thing at a societal level.
You know these people. Hardcore feminists, Black Lives Matter, Occupy, LGBTQXYZ whatever, Gender Studies, Antifa, Illegal immigrants, refugees. All of these groups employ the same tactic, “Give us free stuff or we’ll call you names.” It’s extortion for un-owed and un-earned resources. Emotional manipulation. A smokescreen for socialism in moral camouflage.
Not the path to happiness in my opinion. More like a trap. Permanent anger and powerlessness, in which one gives up on their own life, for an unearned sense of self-importance, and the frustration of trying to control others.
More years went by. One day my ex-wife told me that Crystal was planning a return visit to America. She asked if I could host her for a few days. Well, since I felt that I ‘owed her one,’ I once again said, “Yes.”
Now this caused a lot of stress in my current relationship. As apparently women in the present do not like the reappearance of women from the past, no matter how non-threatening that might be. Who knew? But oh I just had to be Mr. Niceguy one more time.
Anyways, Crystal arrived along with a friend, and so began a couple of very miserable days. As I showed them around the Bay Area they complained and insulted me non-stop. They called me racist, they called me sexist, a homophobe, a redneck, and probably worse. They didn’t know they were doing it, but they did it anyways.
Well, they were both suffering from a disease, one which has infected millions of people, from movie stars to schoolteachers, high-tech billionaires to late-night comedians. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS for short.
People infected with TDS have an irrational belief that the world will end next Tuesday after Donald Trump and the Ku Klux Klan put all hispanic homosexual muslims in concentration camps, deny them access to birth control, and then launch nuclear weapons in order to enrich himself… or something like that.
This unmitigated disaster could of course only be explained by the stupid, racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-science, greedy, fucking rednecks that elected the lint-haired tweeter-in-chief. My TDS-infected guests spent their time trying to spot the “evil ones,” never suspecting or even considering that there was one driving them around town.
Yes, I had supported Trump, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with their idiotic ideas. Of this I said nothing. But oh the irony of it all. Yes, the black woman who I had supported, along with her child, was now calling me a racist fucking redneck. And these were the self-proclaimed “open-minded tolerant” people! Ha! What a laugh. But I did not laugh. Nor did I point out the irony.
Instead I said, “Hey, let’s go for a drive out to Point Reyes.” All the way there, more of the same hate. And all the way there, me with my mouth zipped. Along with the non-stop negativity, came some of the most immature behavior I’ve ever seen.
For example. After a long walk along the beach at Point Reyes, Crystal sat on a post, staring at the sea. I assumed she was reveling in the majesty of nature or something like that and let her be. Her friend and I waited by the car. After several minutes, Crystal barked angrily, “What are you guys just going to let me sit here all day?”
She wasn’t enjoying the moment, she was having a temper tantrum. My goodness, a grown woman acting like a three-year-old. She hadn’t grown at all. I was honestly tempted to just get in the car and drive away. Yes, that idea was mighty appealing, but I still wanted to get through this visit with the least amount of drama.
But the next morning, I let Crystal’s friend know what was going on, and how unhappy I was about it. What ensued was a lively discussion, and much to the friends credit, it was honest and respectful. No minds were changed, but understanding was gained. Among things we discussed was their use of “shaming tactics.”
What are “shaming tactics?”
Imagine if someone said to you, “Can you believe there are racist, idiots out there that like bananas?” Now if you happened to like bananas, you might think to yourself, “Well, I don’t want to admit to liking bananas, because this person will say that I’m a racist idiot, so I’ll just smile and stay quiet.”
That’s a shaming tactic, and it’s intended result. Not to discuss, or understand, but to intimidate and control. Shut up and agree or else. Although immoral and illogical, such tactics are very effective. Much of Europe, Germany in particular is committing cultural suicide as we speak, simply to avoid being called names.
Anyways, having overheard this “argument,” Crystal freaked out. Though I insisted that I had been the instigator, Crystal blamed her her friend for starting a fight. I said there was no fight and I invited Crystal to join in. I very much wanted to have a meaningful conversation with her, to at least raise the possibility that there might be a different way of looking at things.
She would not do it. Not even consider it.
They left the next day, and I was glad. A few days later, my ex-wife called to thank me for hosting her sister, and also asked if I’d consider taking Crystal along on one of my photo adventures. This time I said, “No.”
Some time later, Crystal posted a rant on Facebook, angry at someone whom had used the term “shaming tactics.” I had a pretty good idea who that person was. And when she un-friended me I knew for certain.
I didn’t like that. But at the same time, I kind of did. Her anger was unjustified, but who was I to presume fixing someone whose identity depends on being broken? Why should I frustrate myself on such a lost cause? Why should I care what she thinks of me?
I shouldn’t. The correct response is no response. To simply shrug and not give a damn. You know, sort of like a certain fellow now occupying the White House. Perhaps in my desire to be “nice,” all I’d been doing was proving the original meaning of that word: “foolish.”
One shouldn’t suffer fools gladly, especially when that fool turns out to be one’s self. And so I bid farewell to Crystal, and to the fool. I wish good luck to both, but allegiance to only one.