An Open Letter to a ‘Curly-Headed Facebook Fascist’

Dear Admin, 

As you may recall, I’m a member — oops, check that, WAS a member — of your Facebook group “2B – 3A Curls.” It’s the group where we talked about styling tips for wavy hair. I’ve enjoyed the advice about gels, mousses and diffusers, and even weighed in a few times on the great plopping vs. scrunching debate. 

But it all came screeching to a halt today. 

You posted a congratulatory message to Joe Biden. That got some pushback, given that it’s a page about hair, not national politics. I posted a comment, simply asking if we could keep politics off the page. Oddly, my comment disappeared. So, I posted it again, while also asking what would happen if somebody posted to congratulate Donald Trump on his four years as President. 

That’s when another member piped in. She told me that nobody in the group would ever do that because Donald Trump is “evil personified.” We went back and forth a few times. I remained calm, didn’t defend President Trump, but explored the one-sidedness of the group’s apparent policy. (A group that, let me remind you again, is dedicated to discussing hair.)  

Next thing I knew, I was removed. And blocked. All for asking why you allowed one political point of view to be expressed, but not another. 

Look, I don’t mind getting the boot. I’ve got the curly hair thing down by now. But you dumped me before I got a chance to say a few things that I’d like to say now.  

It’s not about Trump. It’s about civil discourse. 

I want to start by saying that I feel really, truly bad for you and for other young women like you. I feel bad that, in whatever education you received, you were led to believe that name calling, baseless accusations, appeals to emotion and ultimately “canceling” opposing viewpoints are the equivalent of making an intelligent argument for your position. This will not help you grow, or learn, or function in a world of diverse opinions. It will only work if you exist in an echo chamber with your ears covered, trying to drown out any uncomfortable or threatening ideas. 

I get that it’s harder out here. In college, everybody agreed. You were right and everybody else was a fascist. At least, everybody except those who disagreed but didn’t want to say so out loud, because they didn’t relish being regarded as fascists by people who wouldn’t recognize a real fascist if he overthrew their island nation. Name calling kept people in line back then. But here in the real world, there are a lot of people with a lot of diverse opinions. And trying to cancel them all gets really, really exhausting. 

This is what happens when you can’t intelligently defend your viewpoint. You wind up fearing other viewpoints. So, you need to neutralize them somehow. If not through persuasion, then through intimidation or force. Don’t let them talk. Shame them, call them names, admonish them for hurting your infallible feelings.  

In other words, you limit their right to express their opinion — their freedom of speech. 

Do you know what it looks like when that starts happening on a national level? Information has to be controlled. The media has to support the Party Line, and anyone who challenges the prevailing narrative must be silenced.  

But ideas are stubborn things. And the people holding those ideas even more so. So you need to scare them, to keep them in line. And if that doesn’t work, you need to make good on your threats. You need to isolate them from the others, so their ideas can’t spread. 

That’s how gulags happen. 

It’s a lot easier to silence someone, to negate their rights to speech and free assembly and to free association, if they are “evil personified.” Every tyrannical society vilifies those they consider a threat to the Official Party Line. Jews? Christians? Gays? Millionaires? Just decree that they are “evil personified.” Say it loud enough and often enough, and you’ll have a society that thinks nothing of shutting them up, throwing them off buildings or shipping them off for extermination. 

Right now, you’re one of the popular kids. Your ideas are in vogue. But that’s not going to last forever. This is what makes me saddest about girls like you. Eventually they’re coming for you as well. They always do. But by then, it will be too late. 

But let’s get back to the here and now. It’s your page and you’ve got every right to control the membership, and the content. Hey, I’ve dropped a few people from my Facebook page too. But it was generally because either they were rude to my friends with dissenting viewpoints, or they tried to turn non-political posts into political arguments. Or both. I never object to respectful disagreement. And I’ve never allowed a certain type of speech — I.e. political speech — from one side but not the other. 

But since the half of the country who voted for Donald Trump is, in your mind, “evil personified,” they are not welcome on your little curly hair page. So, apparently from here on out we’re going to have to have Republican Curly Hair pages and Democrat Curly Hair pages. Just like everything else that has been ruined by our toxic, divisive culture. I know y’all want to blame Donald Trump. I’m no big fan of his rhetoric sometimes. But this has been building since long before he arrived on the scene. Anybody, on either side, who is canceling disagreement instead of airing it out in a free exchange of ideas, is contributing to the problem. 

Finally, Admin, I would strongly encourage you to find an objective study of America’s founding. And the history of tyranny, with perhaps an emphasis on the 20th century. And, for good measure, the free speech movement of the 1960’s. 

Because what you don’t know can hurt you. 

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.