[This blog contains descriptions of child abuse.]
One of the worst beatings my father ever gave me came in response to me asserting a truth. I was eleven or twelve years old, and I don’t remember how we got into an argument, but I remember it having something to do with me not being able to make something stand upright. My father was yelling at me because he thought I could never get this thing to stand upright, even though I had done so before on multiple occasions. I told him that I had, and he said I was lying and starting berating me about other things. I told him again, and he yelled at me to stop lying again and kept screaming at me. I told him again, and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground, wracked in pain, as he assaulted me for what wouldn’t be the last time in my life.
I’m not about to sit here and say that I had never lied before, but this was far from the first time that he had assumed I was lying about something when I demonstrably wasn’t. In his mind, though, it didn’t matter. Because he wanted me to be a liar, since that would justify his own anger and rage, he was going to make it happen by any means necessary, even if that meant beating an actual lie out of me just to get him to stop hitting me. These past few years, as I’ve been making my own life here in Wisconsin, I’ve been looking back at more episodes of how my father treated me — violently or otherwise — and coming to new understandings of just how he was manipulating me to sow seeds of doubt in myself, to try to undermine whatever confidence I might have had from the intelligence tests I took when I was very young, so that despite whatever grades or other accomplishments I got, I would still feel unintelligent and dependent on him.
These episodes keep coming back to mind, unbidden, a few times every week, but the particular episode I mentioned above is one that I’ve been struggling with since the middle of last week, after possibly the worst customer service experience I’ve had in my life so far. I don’t want to get into any details yet, because I’m hoping that this company will eventually get its act together, but in my initial attempt to deal with an erroneous email I got from them, the first customer representative I dealt with accused me of lying on multiple occasions, and about things that were easily proven by the company’s own tools. This alone would have been bad enough, but the fact that the representative lied to me several times — at one point insisting that I was living in a house in Arizona, after having already verified the address of my apartment here in Wisconsin — just made each accusation of lying on my part hurt all the more.
To say that this interaction ruined my day would be an understatement; it ruined at least two days here, and I’m not even sure it’s done messing me up because the underlying problem that caused me to reach out to this company still hasn’t been solved. I understand that customer service is a very difficult and often-thankless job, and that many companies don’t give their customer service employees the proper tools for handling inquiries and complaints, but accusing customers of lying goes far beyond any bounds of reasonable behaviour, especially when the accusations are so easily and readily disproven. Even if this experience hadn’t triggered memories of that one episode with my father, I’m fairly certain that it still would have wrecked me, especially in light of the fact that it solved absolutely nothing about my problem (and led me to waste time because the employee dismissed me with what turned out to be yet another lie, that I still checked out in hopes of resolving the root problem).
I wish I could say that incidents like this are an isolated part of my life, but the fact is that I’m living in a world of people engaged in the same tactics. If people don’t like the truths of history, or people like me existing, or the damage they’re doing to the environment, or how many people are dying from their insatiable greed, they just invent lies and force them on us by all means necessary. Sometimes the force is political. Sometimes it’s psychological. Sometimes it’s physical. However it’s done, the intent is the same: Bullying others to install a new “reality” in place, no matter how much damage it does. It took everything in me, but I didn’t let my father’s bullying turn his lies into my truth back then, and I’m not about to let the bullies of today force their lies onto me, or anyone else.