So, sometimes people develop short-circuited filters. Nobody is completely immune to this. I have, on occasion, been terrible and it didn’t dawn on me how awful I was being until I had a chance to think about it. This may have been one of those times. Afterward, I was told that my comment was inappropriate by the person whose online space it was. I respect that. However, I still can’t bring myself to regret what I said or even how I said it.
I was responding to a feel-good comment that was injected with emotional ammunition. I suspect he had never really thought about the implications of what he was saying at all. That doesn’t mean his statement wasn’t terrible.
I actually had a couple versions of my response, before I posted what I did, that were much more combative. I had to calm down. However even after my edits I was left with a particularly scathing assessment of his statement and of him.
Someone had said, at some point, “God always provides for us” and I had added in a comment “…except when he doesn’t.”
This is his statement in response to that:
I am sorry that you have this perception in life. However, your struggles are no less or hard than mine. They are simply mine and your struggles simply yours. Making ourselves into victims is the best way to become one. Less than .025% of people survive longer than 5yrs, this is what my doc’s tell me when we talk about my tumor. It has been 10yrs since my diagnosis. There is no one in the world that can tell me God Dosen’t [sic] always provide for us. “except when He doesn’t” So I feel sad when I hear this, I pray that God may bless you and love you.
The go-to argument is generally to explain that unlikely events are not necessarily miraculous events, but that’s not the only problem with this mentality. The best rebuttal I’ve seen is from one of my favorite animators NonStampCollector. Jon Stewart took a good stab at explaining the problem as well. Here was my attempt (slightly edited for grammar):
Okay – so I’m really trying to be diplomatic here. However, do you realize how they calculate those numbers? Do you think that 99.075% of people in your situation just don’t exist or that you have done something to deserve life that they obviously haven’t? Do you think that they made themselves victims?
Do you think that actually HAVING a “doc” might have contributed to your continued well-being?
I don’t think I’m a victim – I’m not thinking about myself. I’m thinking of other people. I am incredibly privileged and so is my family. I accept and attempt to understand that. I think it’s a struggle to come to terms with the fact that I am privileged at the expense of others in many ways; and that bothers me.
Perhaps you have always been provided for and you can pin that privilege on “God”? That’s just completely ignoring everyone who has ever died because of lack of medical care, been murdered, displaced or raped during conflicts, starved to death due to famine or conflict, killed in natural disasters, etc.
You really think that God always provides for “us”? Because the only way that makes any sense is if you exclude a whole lot of people from “us” and start blaming the suffering of others (that you and I have sometimes been complicit concerning and have benefited from) squarely on their “victim mentality”. Or perhaps they aren’t Christian or the right type of Christian?
It all boils down to absolving you of guilt – pretending as if God has magically provided for you – and ignore the blood that has paid for your privilege.
Pretending that everyone’s struggles are equal is just obscene.
Now, I suppose I could have attempted to bring in my own emotionally-charged personal experiences to somehow counter the emotional capital that his cancer diagnosis provided to him. I could have said that my own son had a remarkable recovery from a traumatic brain injury and that he continues to improve. Considering his brain scans, it would not have been unusual for him to have been in a coma-like state for weeks. That’s not what happened, and the doctors and nurses were pretty amazed that he did so well. Several churches were praying for him, and although I appreciated their well-wishes, the concept that God had somehow intervened was unconscionable to me. I could have simply explained why I felt differently in a similar situation. That would have been perceived as much less harsh and perhaps would have increased the possibility of my perspective being seriously considered.
I don’t know if I did the right thing.
To be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with rejoicing in the recovery of yourself or a loved one. Have a goddamn party with cake and ice-cream (heck, I’ve been to such a party), smile and cry, and be so elated and relieved that you can’t hardly stand how elated and relieved you are.
When my son started to walk, I was so happy I thought I was going to break something in my happy center and go temporarily insane. I was happy for HIM.
How sick is it to call your own personal luck compared to others’ death and suffering, “God providing for us”?
All of us? I think you mean you.
How fatally self-obsessed can one person possibly be? Or as Jon Stewart said, “How far does your head have to be up your ass?”
Yeah, that Jon Stewart quote was included in the first iteration of my comment. I never said I didn’t have some restraint.