You don't have to like them but you do have to love them
Sometimes people piss me off. Sometimes they irritate me. Sometimes I find their behaviour ethically abhorrent. Sometimes I am genuinely afraid of them. Sometimes I wish I could make them see things the way that I see them. Sometimes I want to take calculating action to show them the error of their ways.
People who love cancel culture, for example, who believe that false accusations never happen, who believe that no one would ever lie as a malicious form of character assassination. Do you know how easy it would be to drop into their comments section from a burner account and state some slander? Do you know how easy it would be to drop some rumours into the gossip mill? To make sure people know, for community safety reasons, the harm this person has supposedly caused? It would be so incredibly easy to make this person experience the very thing they believe is both always justified and also non-existent. It would be all too easy to get my revenge, on behalf of myself and the hundreds of cancelled people I know, who know all too well that cancel culture is real, that it can destroy your life, and that people fucking lie.
I’ve had to walk myself back from the edge of that revenge fantasy many times. I’m not above it. I’m not above the human instinct to punish, to control, to ‘show them.’
I don’t like these people. I don’t like their irresponsibility, their smugness, their cruelty. I don’t like how they pass along falsities with utter assurance and how they feel no remorse for the damage they do. I don’t like my name in their posts, the easy way they talk shit, the easy way they go for the jugular and try to take everything. The way they act like they know me, make detailed and specific claims that are entirely fabricated, and insist that no one ever lies about these things.
It isn’t easy for me to have compassion for these people. To be honest, it was easier for me to find compassion for my ex-partner who put my literal body through a wall. There is something about the smug and detached way that they condemn human beings to social death, all the while positioning themselves as the good guys, the righteous ones. The way they refuse to even see what they are doing. The way they don’t even consider that maybe they are actually the ones ‘causing harm.’
And yet – I do have to find compassion for these people. An old saying I heard in AA still applies. I don’t have to like them but I do have to love them. I have a responsibility to see their humanity and to offer them grace. I have a responsibility not to act on my revenge fantasies. I have a responsibility to let go of the desire to control them, even when I know what they are doing is fucking wrong. I have a responsibility to focus on myself and to put my energy toward doing good in the world. And I have a responsibility to love them. These fucking lost human beings. These people acting out in ways that they currently cannot see. These people who think they are doing good, who convince themselves it is justice, while they punish and exile and dehumanize.
I stretch myself. And like any stretching it is a practice. I stretch myself toward tolerance. Then I stretch myself from tolerance to grace. From grace to compassion. And then from compassion all the way to love.
May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you be free.
Clementine Morrigan is a socialist-feminist writer, educator, and public intellectual based in Montréal, Canada. She writes popular and controversial essays about culture, politics, sexuality, and trauma. A passionate believer in independent media, she’s been making zines since the year 2000 and is the author of several books. She’s known for her iconic white-text-on-a-black-background mini-essays on Instagram. One of the leading voices on the Canadian Left and one half of the Fucking Cancelled podcast, Clementine is an outspoken critic of cancel culture and proponent of building solidarity across difference.
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