It was probably about a month ago now, but I’m not going to engage a rigid search for evidence to confirm or rule out the possibility of one more or fewer weeks. It was after a long and already heated discussion had taken place in which I made a public call for concrete action against racism, which the online audience I was addressing could freely ignore or act upon at their whim and fancy. Rather than taking it or leaving it, the first respondent repeatedly attempted to derail the topic with lukewarm politics, tone-policing, and feigning personal victimhood in the face of an issue as enormous as systemic racism. I didn’t play nice with this person, who as far as I can tell, had no idea how to respect and appropriately act upon other people’s personal boundaries, and had zero intention of engaging the issue at hand in a genuine way at all. They were simply more invested in finding ways to legitimate accusing me of being unnecessarily hostile and/or abusive. I had stopped engaging this individual and openly acknowledged my intentions to not continue any sort of conversation with them any further, before the person I called a hatemonger arrived in the conversation. And that person appeared for the express purpose of whining about how abusive and hostile they think I am being in a conversation that doesn’t concern him at all. Again, I had publicly declared that I find three particular famous persons’ racisms unacceptable, and thus was calling for concrete action (i.e., a voluntary boycott) to send them that message by refusing to send them any more money; but to this individual, I was behaving as though a hatemonger.
This is the individual I called a hatemonger, and though I’m certain that to a majority of people, this accusation seemed out of left field, I assure you that I was not exaggerating. I don’t use this word often, so when I do, I mean it. His name is Peter, and from what little I know of him, he is both habitually passive aggressive and a dangerously selfish individual who pursues conflict with anyone who isn’t directly serving his interests. He also has a difficult time dealing with an adult disabled son, and when he’s not with his son, he has an even more difficult time dealing with an alcohol problem. The tragedy here is that except for having a son with a disability, Peter is exactly like my biological father, whose name is also Peter. Though Peter (the not-biologically-related hatemonger) and I were once on friendly terms, this changed in an instant the night he posted a “joke” about drunk driving.
Peter stated that he had been drinking before he stepped into his vehicle and began driving home. He was pulled over that night at a police check-stop and given a breathalyser test, which he stated he passed. He described trying to “joke” with the police officer about how he could have drank up to ten times as much beer before he would have failed the breathalyser, which the officer (understandably) did not take well. I became very upset when I saw this story appear in my newsfeed, and told Peter point-blank that drunk driving is no laughing matter. Peter became defensive, and insisted that it was funny. I answered him by explaining to him that my maternal grandfather’s drunk driving was the first point at which I terminated all contact with a family member. I also shared that I later found out that this same member of my biological family had never been sober for a day in my mother’s entire childhood, and that alcoholism has run rampant through that side of my family, reducing the 20 children of her generation to just myself, two siblings, and two cousins (who I have no contact with). Finally, I said that if it isn’t clear yet, it should be clear as day that alcoholism has played a prominent role in horrendous trans-generational violence in my family. I stopped short of stating that, quite frankly, alcoholism is cultural genocide. But I made it clear that his “joke” is super fucking triggery of a shitload of trauma, and that for this reason, it’s just not funny at all. The very least he could do is just be more conscious of the fact that his shitty sense of humour is actually hurting people.
Peter responded by becoming incensed with me, demanding that I stop “fucking [him] around” because he hadn’t asked me to do so. When I informed him that he is being an unapologetic asshole about something as serious a drunk driving—which destroys many families every year and is the very reason that police check-stop was taking place to begin with—he began declaring victim status, as if I was being disproportionately abusive to him by calling him out for being a total shithead over a highly sensitive and legitimately emotional issue. I decided I had had enough, and about an hour later, I formalized my rejection of his self-serving horse shit. I did it for my own mental health, and I didn’t look back.
Peter and I have since been in the same room together from time to time, and he has dealt with this primarily by pretending I’m not even there, even when I’m sitting directly next to him and other people around us are directly addressing me. He doesn’t care if he appears rude to other people around him, which I have little doubt is exactly the effect of his preferred coping strategy. He also deals with my presence in the room by making sure he’s as far away from me physically as he can remove himself when he can no longer persistently ignore me. This usually happens when I begin taking up an equal or sometimes even greater amount of space in dialogue than he has been demanding all night long in the same location in the room, but sometimes it seems that it’s because I’m discussing something of interest to him that he cannot respond to without engaging me directly. So he gets up and moves somewhere else. Good riddance.
But online, Peter does engage me directly. He pursues conversations I have started for the express purpose of venting his frustrations with me, and from the number of times he has done exactly this virtually every time I have started a conversation among his peers over the very few times I have bothered to do so, he has exhibited a clear preference for attacking either my character as a person or what he perceives as my “tone” (i.e., tone-policing). Virtually no one ever calls him out for this except for myself, because his peers clearly do not like when a heated debate transforms into a personally motivated conflict that non-consensually encloses uninvolved third parties by the hundreds. And who can blame them for not liking this?
Peter is hardly the first person—or man—to pull this shit on me repeatedly, as if to force hundreds of people with varying degrees of personal or emotional investments in each of us to “pick a side” and denounce the less-favoured party. He’s also not the latest person to pull this shit on me, and the last one that comes to mind was also a male who struggles with the cycle of addiction (even though, unlike Peter, he’s a dry alcoholic). But Peter seems to have forgotten that he and I were never married, so whatever his beef with the woman who rejected him forever (who I’m confident reminds him of, say, his parents divorcing over his mother’s alcoholism, perhaps?), I am not his personal punching bag and I will neither tolerate nor play nicely when he’s abusing hundreds of people by dragging them into this psychodrama. Peter also seems to have forgotten that I’m angry for reasons that he has no bearing on at all, and that sometimes, I’m already angry for those non-Peter reasons with the very same hundreds of people he’s attempting to manipulate into hating me to make himself feel better. So while he’s abusing them to abuse me indirectly (as passive aggressive types do as a matter of habit when they are angry with someone), he’s missing the bigger picture. I can’t be manipulated or abused by the way these people feel about me, because I already stopped caring about what they think of me a long time ago. I take and grow relationships with the ones who stand by me anyway, and I try to forget about and move on from the ones who won’t. I’ve done a lot more walking away than he seems to think.
So why am I writing about this after so long? Well, because not everyone who is connected to both Peter and I walked the other way when I called him a hatemonger. Because not everyone who is connected to the two of us decided to wash their hands of me when I refused to play nice with the first responder, who persistently derailed the subject of systemic racism to prioritize his personal butt-hurt of the moment. Because there are some people I care about, in other words, who are still connected to him and I. And I don’t want to just sit on my hands in silence while those I care about are continually hurt by this person—a man who literally goes out hunting for hatred anywhere he can find it. And though I’m sure Peter himself will never read this blog post, I can be sure that the last person on his mind if he were to do so would be his disabled son. But if Peter doesn’t stop drinking (and especially drinking and driving) and deal with his shit, his disabled son may soon just not have a father any more. It could happen exactly the way my maternal grandfather just suddenly didn’t have a 15-year-old grandchild any more, or it could happen by means of something significantly more horrific. And though I’ve never met Peter’s son, I identify with him and I care about what happens to him.
So if you’re reading this, and Peter is in your life — whoever Peter really is, whether it’s the very real person I’ve written about in this blog post or that man is merely a stand-in for someone else — don’t just keep taking his shit and enabling his addiction. Literally every single person whose life is touched by him deserves better. Especially his son.