Saturday, February 8, 2020

Facebook Bullying and Polish Identity

Someone advised me to "friend" a Catholic author. I did.

The author is far to the left of me, as are a good percentage of his friends. We are also culturally different. I am a child of immigrants, lifetime poverty, when living in America, almost always on a coast, or wishing I were on a coast, among very diverse people, the people I think of as "my" people. When I lived in Indiana I never got over regarding WASPs as exotics, and I'm sure they never got over regarding me as an exotic creature, either. And yes you can be Catholic and still be culturally WASP.

We are, simply, not the same. Their ancestors came over on the Mayflower and owned slaves. My ancestors were serfs. Their grandma spoke English and served them Jell-O molds with little marshmallows. My babicka warned my mother to avoid rushing streams or the Vodnik might pull her under. One of my aunts was gang-raped by Red Army soldiers. One of their aunts breeds show dogs. You get the idea.

One of the conversations revolved around Jussie Smollett's accusations. A participant believed Jussie Smollett. I had an ethnographic curiosity about anyone who could believe Smollett's outlandish tale of being attacked by a MAGA-hat wearing lynch mob early in the polar vortex morning in one of Chicago's more wealthy and Democratic neighborhoods. I googled the person who believed Jussie Smollett and discovered that he lives in an all-white town in an all-white county in a virtually all-white state.

Of course, Jussie Smollett's story has since been proven false.

I call such folks "rich, white liberals." If you don't actually know any black people, your pontifications about black people are of questionable value. Black people sure as heck did not believe Jussie Smollett. "Rich" is relative. Have you been able to go to the doctor when you get sick? Did you always have shoes as a child? Have you ever eaten something that disgusted you because you were hungry, no other reason? My answers? No, no, yes. Yours? If they are opposite, I think of you as rich.

When I try to talk to rich, white liberals on Facebook, no matter how carefully I tread, I always hear the same thing. "If you don't agree with the rich, white liberal positon, you are clearly a KKK member."

This always gets me. I have never lived in an all-white town in an all-white county in an all-white state. When I was growing up, my next-door-neighbors were black, and we were intertwined. Either I was at their house or the little girl was at my house playing with me.

My first job after graduating from college was in Africa, in what is frequently called either the world's poorest country or one of the world's poorest countries. I currently live, and have lived for almost twenty years, in a majority-minority city, and my students are significantly minority.

Kind of an odd CV for a white supremacist.

I believe, and I state publicly, that rich, white liberal ideas have hurt, and continue to hurt, black people. Maybe, just maybe, rich, white liberals would benefit from honing their ideas about how to uplift others against others' real life experience. Rather than doing so, they label anyone who disagrees with them racist, including black conservatives like Shelby Steele and John McWhorter.

Rich, white liberal arrogance and contempt for poor whites like me is a big part of the reason Trump got elected.

A lot of what goes on on the internet in "religious" environments has nothing to do with virtue at all. It has to do with showing off. It has to do with signaling one's own virtue. Rich, white liberal trolls scour the internet, sniffing out posts that they can misinterpret, so that they can use another human being as a box to stand on, to make themselves taller. See? See how good I am? And here I am in this Catholic environment, gooder than this bad bad bad person, upon whom I stand.

Conservative Catholics do this just as much as liberal Catholics do. "YOU VOTE DEMOCRAT? YOU BABY MURDERING BEAST!"

Note: I vote Democrat. I have never murdered a baby.

There is so much of this uncharitable straw-manning and one-upping that it has damaged my faith. Where are the real Christians? I mean that. Where are the people who tell the truth, and are kind to one another, and work toward the good? Rather than bullying and lying and accusing and using what others' say to advance one's own virtue profile? I seek them just as Diogenes sought an honest man.

Want to know the truth? The bulk of the best people I have met on the internet are not Christian at all. They are Jewish, often secular Jews, or agnostics or atheists or people with only the thinnest thread of connection to Christian faith.

The best internet conversations about virtue I have not had in overtly "Christian" or "Catholic" environments.

But I digress.


In this liberal Facebook environment, that is, the Facebook page of the aforementioned left-wing Catholic author, I said today that if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic candidate for president, he will hand the presidency back to Trump. I said that I and many others would never vote for Bernie Sanders. I said that his people murdered and tortured my people, and by his people I meant communists.

Is it correct for me to associate Bernie Sanders with communism? You can debate that. This June 18, 2019, American Spectator article by Dov Fischer takes the pro position. I'm sure there are many good facts that can be adduced in the anti position. I can say that I've heard Bernie Sanders talk, and he sounds like the communists I used to hang out with in my misspent youth, when I was living in New York City and hanging out with self-identified, card-carrying communists. Sanders also sounds like government propaganda in Soviet-era Poland, where I lived for a bit over a year.

After I posted that I would not vote for Sanders, and that I associate him with communism, I was rapidly denounced as an anti-Semite.

Note: at no point did I reference that Sanders has Jewish ancestry. I say "Jewish ancestry" because I don't think of Sanders as Jewish. I don't get the impression that having Jewish ancestry has any significance to him. In fact I'm aware that he is allied with people I think of as anti-Semitic, including Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

One woman denounced me first, and then others joined in. They quoted me saying things I never said. In no time, one of those doing the denouncing sniffed out my Polish name and made derogatory comments about my Polish ancestry.

The woman who first accused me was named Nan. Nan. Nan is perhaps, along with Buffy, the ultimate WASP girl name. I'm guessing she's Catholic – again, this was a Catholic Facebook page – but the name is very WASPy. Her last name is both the name of an American city and an American hero.

Often when someone says something on Facebook that disgusts me I visit the person's Facebook page. I do this because I want, better, to understand their full humanity.

I visited Nan's Facebook page. Photos of a lovely, upscale, arts and crafts home. Photos of skinny women with long silky, blondish and brunette hair and good teeth in matching pajamas, and then photos of those same women in miniskirts. Of course a dog and a front yard and matching, gold-rimmed china and cloth napkins carefully folded, napkins that match the paint on the dining room walls, and candles and a multigenerational family and houseplants and people holding champagne glasses on a vast, green lawn with every fat blade of grass the exact same height, and palm trees swaying in the background and a marble bust … oh, you get the idea.

Want to know the first thing that came into my mind when I looked at Nan's Facebook page?

This is the kind of woman I would clean houses for. This is the kind of woman my mother cleaned houses for. This is the kind of woman my grandmother, had she lived in America, would have cleaned houses for.

Nan City-American-Hero-Last-Name that ends in a consonant. This is the woman who accused me of being an anti-Semite because I said that if the Dems nominate Sanders, they hand the election to Trump, because many of us don't want to vote for a man we associate with communism, and some of us have actually lived under communism, and our loved ones suffered under communism, in ways that they, with their sheltered, privileged, rich, white liberal lives, could never understand.

Nan's carefully folded napkins, and her dining room walls, are a color I could only ever call the color of blood. We have different cultural references. Different memories. Different triggers.

This bugged me. It didn't bug me because some rich witch on the internet and her gaggle of bullying "friends" lied about me. It didn't even bother so much that I encountered such evil and dishonesty and cruelty among people who, presumably, self-identify as Catholic.

I hurt for my mother, a brilliant writer and thinker, who spent her life cleaning houses for women so much stupider and less powerful than she. Women like Nan still control the narrative and women like my mother and me still are defined by them.

A woman like my mother will never be a college president or a bestselling author or an invited guest on a televised debate about poor white ethnics. And my mother was a silent – a silenced – house cleaner because she was a Slovak immigrant, the child of a coal miner who had to quit the mines thanks to black lung, who had to leave school at 14 and support her whole damn family. Her fate was sealed at 14 years old.

No, my mother's fate was sealed when she was born in the river Nitra, that my grandmother retreated to during a hot day of sugar beet harvest. People like that are not the people who are allowed to speak, to define, to tell their own story. People like Nan get to do all those things. They put words in our mouths, words we never said, and then using those false quotes, they make ugly accusations against us.

I hurt for my aunt, raped by Red Army soldiers, a rape that, if I mention it, would somehow be interpreted by these rich, white liberals as identifying me as some other lowlife that they would misquote and denounce, because it would destroy them to feel the pain of someone whose loved ones suffered under communism.

A communism that they can hold up as all rainbow colored unicorn farts, as painless "free college!" and "putting the billionaire class in their place!" because they never stood in a food line, they never had a relative who disappeared or who was unpersoned, they never were roused from sleep at night and put on a boxcar they didn't leave till arriving, weeks later, at Kolyma – Kolyma – a word we should know like we know Auschwitz, but that Nan has never heard, and would silence if she ever heard it.

I hurt for my name, that my name, to this day, identifies me as less than Nan City-American-Hero-Last-Name.

I hurt for us, for Bohunks, for people who were less than when I was a kid, and a Polak joke could silence us, and who are still less than today, because we are not the ones telling our own story.


  1. Well stated. Hope springs eternal. One may think their ignorance and indifference can be overcome by attentively listening to and accepting our true-to-life accounts. But as you point out, a certain arrogance always prevents this.

    1. Gene thank you so much for reading and responding to this personal post. Love to you.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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