There are lots of ways to define a “nice person,” but when I think about what this means to me, I’m reminded of Katniss Everdeen’s line from Catching Fire: “I’m not very good at making friends.” I’ve never read a book featuring a character who gets me so much in my adult life, even if there is a decade of an age gap between us. She’s standoffish and introverted. She’s awkward meeting new people and hates small talk. I imagine she, like me, would make a game out of dodging department store employees who want to ask how my day is going and what my weekend plans are. She’d probably find excuses to leave parties early, if she attends parties at all.
I already know, by conventional standards, that I’m not exactly what you’d call a “nice person.” But that’s not the kind of “nice” I want to write about.
It’s been said – rather brilliantly, I think – that “nice people” made the best Nazis, and I have to agree:
My mother was born in Munich in 1934, and spent her childhood in Nazi Germany surrounded by nice people who refused to make waves. When things got ugly, the people my mother lived alongside chose not to focus on “politics,” instead busying themselves with happier things. They were lovely, kind people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away.
Quite a 180-degree turnaround from my younger self, I don’t enjoy talking very much. Seeing multiple pairs of eyes on me makes me break out in nervous sweat and stumble over my words (interestingly, I’ve gotten better at public speaking over the years. Different setting, I suppose). But when it comes to matters of injustice, I become the fiery “nasty woman” my mother raised me to be (and it is one of the highest compliments I can think of to describe my dear mama as “the nastiest woman I know”!). That is something I don’t know how to be silent about. I am prepared, over the next four years, to make nasty over nice when it’s necessary.
A few weeks before the election, I was at a party watching a Bronco’s game when someone brought up politics, and discussed her support for Donald Trump. You’d think someone pulled a string in my back and released it, the way I found myself repeating “He’s a rapist! He’s a misogynist! He’s a racist xenophobe!” over and over and over until my husband, God bless him, literally dragged me out of the building. I don’t know how to explain to him that being a “nasty woman” means more instances like this, where I hope I don’t lose my cool in quite the same way, but I won’t let opportunities to speak up pass by me, either.
I thought of my mother’s neighbors right after the election, when apolitical friends of mine breathed a sigh of relief that we could stop talking about politics. “That’s over!” they said happily. “Let’s focus on other things.”
But then a white nationalist was named chief strategist to the president-elect. Aren’t you alarmed? I asked.
“I choose not to discuss politics publicly,” one friend said. And posted a picture of puppies.
Another friend messaged me privately. She agreed with me, she assured me. She was just as alarmed as I was! “Count me among the silent resistance,” she said.
The silent resistance? What did that even mean, to resist silently?
Though renowned as a pacifist, Jesus did say, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). For years I had no idea what was meant by this. Now, I do; but my “sword” comes in the form of a pen, a tongue, and a social media platform, and I will raise hell like no “nice” person can possibly imagine over the next four years. I will not be “silent.” I may lose friends, but it’s likely that those friendships weren’t all that deep to begin with if this is what it takes to sever them.
You all have my written word that I will never settle to be a “nice person.” From the sisterhood of Pantsuit Nation, nasty women get things done.