I am a very heavy reader and have been since I was very little. I grew up in a home where my parents worked a bunch though, and so sometimes I had to figure out how to say a word in my head. I could look up the meaning in a dictionary (yes, pre-Kindle/internet) but I never knew how to interpret the pronunciation symbols. So I survived almost 30 years of living understanding the following:

  1. Hearing “seg-way” and understanding that it was a transition from one thing to another.
  2. Reading segue as “seg-you” and understanding that it was a transition from one thing to another.

When it finally came to light I was very embarrassed because I pride myself in my education, intelligence, and ability to reason. How was I able to believe both of the above things and not put them together? The brain is a funny thing. I had never seen the word and heard it spoke together to make the connection, so they were stored separately. When they finally came together, it was like when Google says “you have duplicate contacts, would you like us to combine them?” and I greedily and ashamedly clicked YES.

A recent Facebook thread showed me that I am not alone. This phenomenon is quite common. People lined up to share that they believed that limes were less ripe lemons, that they pronounced hyperbole as “hyper-bowl,” among others. Scroll through and expand the comments and see if you relate to any of them. These are intelligent people, owning up to things that they either learned or assumed incorrectly, and learning and laughing with each other to the truth.

Now, imagine that instead of thinking that lemon and orange Starbust would come together in your mouth to make apple flavor, you believed that blacks were a lesser race. Or that other races should go home. Or that women are for sexual pleasure, whether they gave permission for that contact or not. LOL, amirite? Let’s all come together and share those racist, sexist beliefs that our parents raised us with. Gays are an abomination and a disease? Transgendered people are child molesters? Climate change is fake? How did we go so long believing these ridiculous things? LOLOL.

Except it isn’t like this. These beliefs, this way of life surrounds, indoctrinates, and absorbs into children’s skins until it’s all they’ve ever known. This is their reality. Anything else is lies because why would their parents lie to them? They are safe, warm, fed, educated(?), and most of the time they get what they need or want.

So instead of discovering that the part of the Lord’s Prayer is “deliver us from evil” instead of “deliver us from eagles,” these children, now adults discover that everything they have ever known is a horrific lie. Gays are normal people? Transgendered people are trying to be their true selves? Women have jobs and authority? This emergence from Plato’s cave is too bright, too violent, and so we get tiki torches and marches and shootings. We get Trump as president and a child molester running for the US Senate because an old, white, male Christian child molester is better to have in the seat than some bleeding-heart, gay loving Democrat. Because “white” and “male” mean more in this country even than the safety of children, apparently.

As we enter the week where we all travel to spend time with families, there have been cries on the internet (as there are every year) to “stand up to your families” and I agree, if you have the power and the standing in your family to do it, do it, by all means. But you are not simply explaining that “xing” on street signs is short for “crossing” and not, as your conversation partner previously imagined, said like “zing!” You are attempting to unscramble years of falsehoods, fears, and hatreds. So much time of reinforced beliefs and covered up insecurities. So this year, instead of running in full speed with big words and big sticks, read this post, read this other post by Ed over at Gin and Tacos, and truly ask yourself: will this discussion help them realize their error, or am I simply repeating past patterns? Is this person going to change? Do they want to change? Can I convince them to?

If the answer is no, then you need to figure out how to just not be around that person anymore. If you must be around them at family gatherings, do not talk to them. Do not engage. If you can avoid them altogether, make the break. It is important to understand that people exist in this country that will not listen and will not change. I am ready to devote my time to those who want to change or those who have changed and need support. Sometimes, you have to leave some of the people behind in the cave to join and protect those who have left.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m headed back to turn more people who say “cue-pon” to the correct pronunciation “coo-pon.”

(If you aren’t familiar with my references to Plato’s cave, check out the wikipedia link below. It’s a quick intro.)

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave