Sometimes it hits me just how much some of the people in my life have changed over time, something that has become glaringly apparent in recent years. But then I wonder…
Have they changed? Or have they always been this way? Did I just not see it? Did they just hide it until it now? Or did they really change their ideology that much? And how did that happen?
So many questions… and I have no answers.
There’s a woman I’ve known for a long time… let’s call her Molly. Molly is older than me, old enough to be my mother. When I was younger, she was good to me, kind and supportive, loving. I’ve always adored her. But in the last several years, a side of her came out that I’d never seen before. At first, it seemed born of ignorance, vague comments and conversations, memes, and posts that she didn’t seem to even realize were racist and phobic. Microagression. At first, I made excuses to myself about it, unable to admit that this woman I loved could really be like this. Excuses like… Molly comes from a different generation, Molly has little education, Molly lives in a increasingly insular era.
The thing is… all of those things are true. What’s also true… none of them excuse the ideology.
It quickly became clear that she was biased against any religion that wasn’t Christian. She began making very anti-Semitic commments, anti-Islamic, anti-non-Christians. When she was called on it, she seemed to not even get that she was being prejudiced. The same with anti-POC comments. She would say wildly racist things, but she somehow didn’t recognize that there was anything wrong with it. And then the LGBTQIA+ stuff… it got even worse. And if all of that wasn’t enough, the pandemic hit and that brought with it an even more epic level of BS. There was more and more conversation against these groups of people, and then more and more conversation spouting oft-debunked misinformation and conspiracy theory nonsense spouting about COVID, Trump, and politics.
It hurt my soul. I thought I knew this woman. Clearly I did not.
She wasn’t the only one. It’s happened too many times. The hateful ideology from people I thought I knew.
I watched someone I’ve known for years, an intelligent man who is well-educated, tear into a young woman for literally nothing more than having an opinion different from his. She was polite and well spoke, and “Nate” ripped her apart, calling her names and degrading her. And some of his friends, most of whom I also know, joined him in taking her down. The rhetoric they used was so degrading, so misogynistic, so inappropriate. It shocked me. Every one of the friendships I had with those men ended that day.
A girl I’ve known since childhood, “Leslie,” went down the rabbit hole of QAnon. She was indoctrinated fully before most of us realized what had happened. She became positively evil in her rhetoric and in the way she began to treat the people around her. She physically harrassed several people we both know during the pandemic, a “hoaxer” Karen. And it went well beyond the “COVID is a joke” nonsense. She became anti-everything that wasn’t middle class, white, Christian, and conservative.
And these few people are just the tip of the iceberg.
I can’t fathom how the people I thought I knew could change so much. How could they become these people? How could they suddenly hold this much hate in them? How could they have become so closed to ideas, to facts? What happened?
It’s made me question everything I thought I knew… even about myself. How could I have not known? How could I not see it? What’s wrong with me that I’ve been so blind? Was I so blind to it that I made excuses for it, like I did with Molly? Was I so blind to it that I just refused to see it at all? Was I blind at all, or is this something that changed in them over the years?
Some days it feels as if there is no hope for humanity, not with so much stubborn, baseless hate.