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02 January, 2020

A Few Words About Judgment

Yesterday I overheard a woman say that her New Year’s resolution is to stop being so judgmental of other people.  She thought she would be a better person if she allowed others to just be who they are, instead of feeling like she needed to critique them.

I get it.  I get where she’s coming from.  And I couldn’t disagree more.

Judgment, in the era of Trump, has become a loaded word.  A bit too loaded, maybe.  In many liberal circles, my circles, judgment has become synonymous with dehumanizing people, with “intolerance” of people and their beliefs.  I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has stood up and righteously proclaimed that they are against intolerance.  Again, I get it. But again, I disagree.

Bear with me for a minute here, but I’m going to say something that might sound a bit weird: being  judgy and intolerant is perhaps the most important form of self-care there is.

We make judgments about other people all the time, when we evaluate their character and offerings and value in our lives.   My friend Lisa is absurdly thoughtful – that’s a judgment.  My friend Angie is funny as hell – another judgment.  My friend Liz is a great debater – there’s another one.

This sounds simplistic, I know. 

But what about when it goes the other way?  What about when we hear someone we thought was cool tell a racist joke?  It’s up to us to pass judgment on that person, and decide that he is no longer welcome in our lives.   Or what about when we hear that Wal-Mart has been systematically denying promotions to women, based purely on gender?  It’s up to us to refuse to shop there.  And when Facebook CEO/Liar in Chief Mark Zuckerberg opens his lying mouth about privacy rights and white supremacy and another lie pops out?  Yeah.  Get your ass off Facebook.

These are judgments.  These are opportunities you have, as a thoughtful, savvy person, to make the choices that serve you and your community the best way possible.  

Same thing goes for intolerance and the idea that all people should be welcome at the table, and if you exclude someone, you are committing some sort of injustice.  I call bullshit.

Look, if someone is going to be a racist, misogynist, body-shaming, xenophobic, homophobic prick, well, they don’t get a chair.  It’s my fucking table – I get to decide who gets to break bread with me, right?  I don’t claim to be tolerant, and I never will.  Because I’m not tolerant of bigotry and I don’t want to be.  And I refuse to “give people a chance” if they are expressing views that indicate that queers or brown and black people or Jews or disabled people or fat people or poor people or women just shouldn’t exist. That’s not a difference of opinion – it’s a complete lack of morality, and I’m not having it.

So I make judgments, daily, about who gets to have a spot in my life.  I hang out with other liberals, preferably of the queer, fat, working class type, because that’s my community and that’s where I feel I belong and am accepted. This is an act of self-care, more important than the occasional bubble bath or getting my nails done or even refusing to work overtime.  This is the kind of radical self-care that many of us engage in every day without even knowing it.  We make judgments.  We assess people. We decide who has valuable things to bring in to our lives, and who doesn’t, and we engage accordingly.  To not do this would be to self-sabotage, and to allow toxic people in to our valuable space.

I’m not saying it’s cool to make judgmental pronouncements about who should get to wear stripes or what somebody should buy with their SNAP benefits or the “special rights” disabled people request.  That’s fucked.  But saying that somebody doesn’t deserve to pollute your world and doesn’t get to spread their toxic messaging in your personal bubble is self-love.  It’s self-preservation.  It’s self-care.

And yeah.  It’s judgment.