After a few years of posting and conversing online, my sense of what people regard as sacred has changed significantly. By that I mean what people really treat as sacred. You can tell what’s truly sacred to people by what they will arrive to defend at the merest suggestion that their idol might be threatened.
Years past, based on my own upbringing, right or wrong, I had expected that certain things — religion, the honor due to veterans, the innate dignity of all people regardless of physical ability/disability, and the value of learning — would be held sacred. In fact, none of these four are really held as sacred by people online. Even religion. I have posted thoughtful ruminations on religious topics many times without drawing the least ire, and in fact drawing interest or inquiry from many different people of many different beliefs.
Here are 3 things that are actually held sacred by large numbers of Americans in the online public sphere, 3 things that if questioned or conversed about openly shall bring forth ire and hostility and vigorous defense:
Anything involving guns. Holy Winchester and Colt, these are sacred as fuck. Far more than God or country. So much as utter the word “gun” into a crowded room, and compassion and reason will flee your vicinity with extreme haste, and foaming at the mouth shall commence.
Specifically, the right of a white or white-passing man to bully women online without censure or consequence. I have seen this right defended time and time again, in defiance of all reason and evidence. For at least some, the right to bully is held sacred. If someone’s words or actions, however vile, should wound or endanger, … the defense, healing, or continued security of the woman assailed remains treated as her sole responsibility. For many who hold this sacred, a man is almost never bullying; a woman is merely too sensitive. This dynamic is often transposed onto other marginalized individuals as well, whether they be men of color, our LGBTQ+ neighbors, or the young, who get described in effeminate terms. White America is the community that wishes to believe it has no bullies, only snowflakes.
Intent is sacred. There is a widely held belief that as long as one’s “intent” is pure, one is then absolved of all responsibility for the impact of one’s words or actions. Calls for introspection on such words or actions can be met with hostility and acute personal affront. Suggest that a man’s words reinforce systemic racism or other injustices, and it does not matter to him whether his words do so or not, so long as he feels his intent to be as unracist as Martin Luther King’s. Our ancestors, sometimes wiser than we, might quote a favorite proverb and remind us what the road to hell is paved with, but we are apparently not listening. Intent is held to be sacred and inviolable whether by circumstance or argument.
Frankly, I think all three of these are ridiculous things to hold sacred. This is idolatry of the most poisonous kind: to set up idols whose unquestioned worship tends toward our destruction. We need to reconsider our gods.