Tired of Being Polite

“This is literally what it’s like to be part of a marginalized group. Politeness is met with refusal to listen, and anger is met with demands for politeness.”

— A. M. Leibowitz

There are certain people, certain situations I have been conditioned to keep silent about. I have been told that when it comes to politics and religion. I’m told not to cause any problems. I have been told to treat everyone’s opinion with the utmost respect. Don’t make a scene. I can tell anyone they are acting like an asshole. That would make everyone uncomfortable. I have to shut up and listen to their hate and ignorance. I have to protect everyone’s fragile feelings.

I have to be polite.

I hate being polite. I hate respecting opinions and ideas that are hurtful. I hate putting my headphones in rather than risking getting too angry and losing control. I hate clenching my jaw shut. I hate texting my girlfriend the words I should be saying out loud. I hate worrying I will be the one to lose their job if I engage. I hate that some people get to say whatever they want, and I have to keep quiet.

I hate being polite.

“The language of civility… limits the type of expression people can use, often forcing them to express in neutral or less-impactful terms what they experience in very sharp, immediate ways. It’s therefore a special problem for people who find themselves with grievances that aren’t widely shared or widely discussed.”

— Elizabeth Stoker, Beware Twitter’s Civility Police

I’m talking about people who oppose marriage equality and think that trans men and women shouldn’t use the bathrooms they feel comfortable using. The people who think racism isn’t real. The ones who think Black Lives Matter is pointless. The ones who believe that a person shot by the police obviously deserved it.

The ones who think that homeless people are lazy and that drug addicts are weak. The ones who think feminists hate men and liberals want to take their guns, their money, and wage war on white people and Christmas. The ones who think refugees are terrorists and that America is only for certain kinds of people.

I am talking about a lot of people I work with and a lot of people I see on TV.

They hate everyone who looks and lives differently from them, but they don’t know it. They think they are being honest and telling it as it is, and that I have to show respect for their opinions.

There are times when I want to tell those people how their words have hurt me, and probably many more people too. I want to tell them that it’s people like them who make this world such a damn miserable place to live. I want to tell them that they are selfish and ignorant. I want to tell them to shut the hell up, go learn something, and try empathy for a change. Try being open-minded and open-hearted for once in your life.

But no, I have to keep from making them uncomfortable while they act ignorant, say cruel things, and assert their right to an opinion and representation.

“One thing about being polite is that you know that within you there lurks an incredibly impolite person.”

— Paul Ford, How to be Polite

It’s tiring to keep my mouth shut. It drains me to listen to such disgusting talk. I am weary of holding it all in. So, I don’t think I’m going to be so polite anymore.

I’ve learned that not all opinions are equal, and I no longer believe they should be treated as such. Not all pain is the same, and the needs of some people trump the feelings of others. Just because change makes you uncomfortable and you are afraid of what you can’t understand doesn’t mean I have to keep my kiddie gloves on. Just because you long for a world where people who looked like you didn’t have to take responsibility doesn’t mean I should perpetuate the illusion that a world like that can still exist.

From now on I’m going to say what I have to say. I’m going to tell people when they are hurtful and ignorant. I am going to place the blame for what this world is squarely on those who deserve it. It’s about time they felt bad. It’s about time they felt stupid. It’s about time they felt uncomfortable talking the way they do. It’s about time they feel a little shame for their ideas.

It’s about time the felt the way they make everyone else feel.

Sorry, not sorry.

“I meant to be polite but I forgot.”

Overheard at The Washington Post


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Featured image via Greg Westfall


2 Replies to “Tired of Being Polite”

  1. The whole concept of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is so messed up. All it does is train people to be one part submissive, three parts resentful and stewing. It sidesteps actually teaching people how to constructively express and deal with their feelings. Not to mention all the deeply important things you mentioned in this post that are sometimes skimmed over completely for the sake of being “nice.”


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