I’ve been meaning to write about Tomi Lahren for a while. I’ve been reading about her recent firing from The Blaze after “coming out” as pro-choice, the same way that traffic slows down so drivers can gawk at an accident at the side of the road. The smug, childish part of me praises karma (something I only believe in for smug, childish reasons). The wiser, more introspective part of me thinks, I wonder if there’s any chance she can learn from this.
I’ve had similar “Tomi moments.” Not that I’ve ever had even 1% of her notoriety. But I know the feeling of professing a belief that could be a dealbreaker among the crowd you’re supposed to belong to (or, in Tomi’s case, the one that writes your paycheck). In seminary, I had moments of saying The Wrong Thing (like letting it slip that I drank and tried pot once and wasn’t a virgin and All The Scandalous Things) that cost me respect faster than you can say “Make America Great Again.” Of course, the respect of your peers and the loss of your job are two totally different things. But hang with me for a few moments.
I wonder about Tomi because, in a backhanded, way less extreme scale, I was her. Or at least styled myself as someone who could eventually become just like her, minus the televised pulpit.
Mind you, I was never overtly racist. Just want to make that perfectly clear. But I shared almost all the other hallmarks of modern Right Wingers. I thought every woman who had an abortion should be jailed; I was anti gay marriage (everything LGBT really); I was proudly anti feminist. In an alternate universe called Kent State University, when Tomi was barely old enough to vote, I was a college senior who wrote about those issues (and more) on a weekly basis in a space called The Daily Kent Stater (which I styled like my own watered-down version of Tomi’s segment, Final Thoughts).
I developed a fanbase of people whose values today would make me cringe. I earned the well-deserved scorn of people I could be having drinks with today. For a while, this letter to the editor was the first thing to pop up whenever I Googled myself (karma totally exists when it comes to the internet).
All my online columns are still preserved (I’ll leave it up to you if you feel like hunting for them) and I found all the hard copies in my bedroom closet during one of my last visits back to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving. I have to say…there is nothing quite so humbling as reading the words of a 22-year-old who thought she was so culturally and spiritually woke that you either thought, “Aww, that’s adorable,” or “For God’s sake, shut up and grow up already.” There was no in between. I made sure of that.
There’s a lot more riding on Tomi’s reputation and career than there was during my puny stint as a columnist, I know. The comparison might be slightly ridiculous, but I don’t care what anyone says. If I could change – and I know just how deeply ingrained my destructive beliefs were back then – then it could happen to (almost) anyone.
My wish for Tomi is that one day she’ll view her Final Thoughts the way I view the Stater. She is, after all, only 24. Being young doesn’t make her immune to criticism; it’s just something to keep in mind when criticizing her. Young people say and do all kinds of stupid shit they’ll want to deny when they’re closer to 30 and internet karma will be paying her back for the rest of her life, whether she finds a new TV show or retreats into a Siberian cave.
It’s true that many of my college political and spiritual beliefs were destructive, inaccurate, and offensive, but for the most part, they were genuine. It’s also true that I was under the influence of some very manipulative people. I was taken under the wing of a campus ministry (just months after being raped) and taught that to be a Christian – to really belong in God’s Club – I had to think and act in ways that were quite contrarian to my native Jewish self. Some things, like believing a man could die for the world’s sins and three days later come back to life, came more easily to me than others: things like evangelism and the belief that anyone outside my faith was doomed to hell.
I still struggle deeply with those latter things. But that’s another post.
Is Tomi under the influence of an extremely manipulative network? I have no idea (Glenn Beck seems like such a teddy bear in real life, doesn’t he?). But we all know how clickbait works.
Don’t misunderstand and think I feel sorry for Tomi; I don’t. She’s still a grown-ass woman who is more than capable of thinking and fighting for herself. But what if, just maybe, what if she can’t get hired by another TV network, and is forced to accept the very handouts she’s criticized others for receiving? Maybe then she’d become an ally for the left (I’m just saying).
Sure, it’s unlikely. She could also double down on the right-wing rhetoric even more to prove she still belongs there. But just looking at the example of my own life, I know that change is not impossible and naiveté doesn’t have to be permanent, and that is why I don’t hate her.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.