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

Mary Beth Bonacci

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: Five tips for reading the Word of God

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!