I have a hard time forgiving. Not in the sense that I hold grudges; most of the time I am all too willing to let sleeping dogs lie and act as if hurts never happened. My problem, I think, lies in actually acknowledging that a problem occurred at all.
It's interesting. I think most people, if asked, would say that I'm combative or aggressive when it comes to arguments and debates, and to a point it's true. In writing it is, except for an unfortunate predilection for adverbs and an unabashed love of arcane vocabulary. Matters of simple, verifiable fact I don't hesitate to correct, though I gave up fisking the email forwards I get from my mom as a lost cause. And I doubt anyone at Teh Forum would believe me if I told them that I not only hesitated to enter certain threads at all, I deliberately pulled some of my punches on the ones I did enter (though someone who read the non-redacted posts that I vented on LJ mentioned that he now knows better than to piss me off). I was downright recruited for the high school debate team,* and I kicked ass, if I do say so myself. If I'm cornered, I don't fuck around.
But if I'm given the barest opportunity or the excuse, I will almost without exception avoid, and demur, and hide. I can feel an itch between my shoulderblades compelling me to run away. I would rather ignore something and pretend it's not happening than face it head-on. I have never been the dumper in either of my two previous relationships.** I am the Ennis del Mar of interpersonal relationships.
In a conversation with a friend earlier the concept of forgiveness was being discussed and honestly, despite the fact that my parents hurt me the most, I feel the angriest at Dymphna for outing me not only once, but twice, and for the flimsiest of pretexts. I don't know if it's possible to forgive someone when you can't even stand to be in the same room as them. She's getting married, and I specifically requested not to be in the wedding party, a request that was accepted. Mostly I've been telling people who ask why that I can think of few things more horrifying than the prospect of my sister picking out my clothing, which in accord with my principles about outright lying actually is true, if not completely honest.
I have a serious problem with forgiveness as it applies to people who haven't actually asked for it. Someone who's actually repentant and wants to be given a second chance to prove it I can deal with; I can understand that I should grant someone the same slack I would want granted to me, and even if I have a hard time rebuilding trust with someone I can recognize the rightness of trying to do so. But someone who's either totally unrepentant or doesn't even realize what it is that they did wrong at all? There's not only no guarantee that they won't turn around and repeat it, there's a practical certainty that they WILL. Belief without evidence is faith; belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is denial. I can't believe that God asks us to be doormats; that doesn't serve justice at all, on an individual or social level. Even nonviolence and pacifism are intended to forestall further harm and pave way for restoration, not just to paper over the fact that wrong has been done.
Are we obligated to forgive people who deny that they have wronged us, whether through lack of compassion or comprehension? Even the granddaddy of forgiveness theories, substitutionary atonement, still posits that you have to want it as more than a get-out-of-jail-free card. It doesn't seem possible to force forgiveness on someone, inasmuch as forgiveness is intended to be a restoration of a relationship, or at least a cessation of hostilities, and it takes two to tango, as it were. The Buddhist conception appeals to me more in that it focuses more on letting go of the wrong than achieving justice with the wrong-er, but with that, I'm afraid it's appealing more to my preference for nonconfrontation than any actual desire to move forward. The concept makes perfect sense; the proper application, however, escapes me, because I am so direly willing to pretend things never happened that I'm afraid that it prevents any of the problems from being truly solved. It mostly seems like forgiveness of the forgetful kind just perpetuates the problem. You can't learn from something that you pretend never happened.
Does forgiveness require forgetting, or consent on the part of the forgiven?
*Interestingly enough, I discovered later through Facebook that I was not the only queer in Eastchester's debate team. I expected that from the drama team, but not the nerd herd.
**Iris and I have parted ways. Essentially it boiled down to her wanting to get started finding a long-term relationship and she wants kids and I don't, so that was just not going to work out for either of us. I was neither thrilled nor surprised, really. But we're still friends and all that, et cetera.
I feel a bit, these days, like I'm out of the loop. It's not that I don't know what I want to do one day, but that I don't feel like I know what I need to do in order to get there.
As Bridget and Astrid and I have endlessly discussed every time we're in the same room, Terabil has this insidious ability to suck all the motivation to improve and move out out of you and lull you into complacency with its cheap rent and suburban sprawl until you're, well, living at home and working a shitty dead-end job a year later and wondering where the hell all your fire and passion went. It's truly disturbing. In fact, the only time I've produced any artwork this past year is when I have left the city and gone on vacation visiting someone else. This has led to some truly epic frustration on my part, as well as a half-sincere belief that this city has some kind of Frank Peretti-style demonic curse on it, except in this version the only people who are demonically possessed are the people who AREN'T college students.
I'm somewhat torn between accepting this job as the best I can do for a while and at least using that guaranteed income to get my own apartment, and continuing to try to find other jobs in other places and accepting living at home as the compromise I have to make for the chance to be able to take those other jobs if they come. Not that the other job offers are exactly flowing in, but the possibility makes me not want to settle down lest Murphy's law compel some employer to offer me a decent wage somewhere else right after I take out a lease. At one point recently I had a job opportunity elsewhere, which would have been just as unrelated to art as my current one and entailed a tripled cost of living in the new city for substantially similar wages, and I was ALL READY to jump on it until I looked at my work schedule and realized it would be impossible to make it to that city for an interview.
(Which is another work-related rant-- I am classed as a subcontractor, which makes taxes a right royal bitch to do, but I'm pretty much treated like an employee. Pretty much the only reason I put up with it is because I'm at least paid decently for my trouble, and I'm essentially being paid to be an insomniac with some nifty medical skills.)
Mostly what irritates me about the situation is that a full year and a month after graduating from college, and after swearing to myself that it would not be so, I am still, indeed, living at home and working at a job which has absolutely nothing to do with art. Not even the most tangential connection. And I have not produced a significant piece of artwork in nearly as long. In the last three months, I have produced two sketches each of a stuffed fish and a mounted deer head I found in the supply closet at work, as well as two small watercolors of eggplant from our garden. This is roughly equivalent to half a week's homework in college. A light week.
Now I'm looking up different graduate schools, and researching various financial aid things, and considering whether I would be able to work part-time and go to school or whether various programs would accept my somewhat baroque undergrad degree as an acceptable prerequisite or if I would have to take a lot of intro courses to get up to speed, and then I thought about portfolios... and realized that I basically have a big, blank year of doing dead-end work in the ideological armpit-pimple of the nation* and have absolutely nothing to show for it.
So pretty much now I'm looking for whatever entry-level design employment in pretty much any other city on the East Coast outside of NYC I can get and hoping that if I can just get out of Terabil, my right brain will wake up again and start making up for lost time.
*Anyone who's got real-name privilege, remind me to tell you sometime about the white-supremacy organization that's quartered here. And our newspaper, which likes to publish Michelle Malkin and Cal Thomas op-eds and letters-to-the-editor screeds about God-guns-and-gays. Oh, it's delightful.
"Gay people already have the right to marry, they just have to marry someone of the opposite sex like heterosexuals have to."
By this logic, miscegenation laws were totally fair because everyone could marry, they just had to pick someone of their own race. See? Equality! Pay no attention to the emotional and social costs paid by lovers made strangers under law, or the societal costs of the racism and heterosexism these unequal marriage laws engender, and let's not question the compelling state interest in keeping a civil contract of mutual obligation between consenting adults gender-dependent, because we've got our Constitutional mint and rue nicely weighed out.
I always want to ask people who use this argument if they want to be the straight guy married to a lesbian, or the straight woman married to a gay man (assuming the lost cause straight guy in question doesn't retort "Hur hur, I'd marry a lesbian if I could watch!"). A variation on this one for the married heteros is "did you marry your husband/wife because they had a penis/vagina, or because you loved them and wanted to spend your life with them?"
Of course, this is rarely if ever a real argument. It's a "gotcha" argument made by people who are so entranced by their own cleverness that they can't be arsed to actually address the issues, like the "you're intolerant of my intolerance LOL!" schtick. And it can be logically countered with "Yes, and after sex-irrelevant marriage is law you'll have the right to marry someone you are constitutionally incapable of being sexually attracted to, just like I do now. Congratulations."
"Oh noes, bad timing! This is going to hurt more important political causes!"
Like there's ever a GOOD time. There will always be some bigger issue or more important thing that gays, or women, or transfolk, or people of color will have to take a back burner to.
The women's suffrage movement grew out of women in abolition movements who were angry at being barred from speaking at conferences about issues they were giving their hard work and money to. The second-wave feminist movement likewise grew out of women in antiwar and antiracist groups being relegated to making coffee and getting no credit for the work they did do.
For that matter, why are we trying to get progressive politicians elected in the first place? So we can DO something about this shit. If we can get it done sooner rather than later, then that's a GOOD thing. Bitching about how Middle America "isn't ready" isn't going to help anyone.