Erasing, Invalidating, ‘Terrorist’: Accusations We Face, and How to Answer Them

By Tom Gilson Published on June 5, 2023

Rachelle Lefevre, star of Twilight, sounds desperate, reacting to “terrorists” at Target who  are “successfully erasing” her non-binary 7-year-old.

I’d be terrified, too. Erase my child? Never!

But no, actually Lefevre sounds pathetic. Social pushback caused Target stores to relocate their “Pride” displays. That’s “terrorism,” in her mind.

It must be hard living in such fear.

The erasure thing sounds awful, I’ll grant her that. Or I might, if could figure out what it means, or if it means anything at all.

Take it literally and it’s definitely the stuff of nightmares. The cartoonist gets tired of a character and rubs her out with his eraser. Gone without a trace. If I thought someone was coming after me to do that, I’d be terrorized, too. But even though she says we’ve been “successful” in trying to erase her 7-year-old, that boy or girl is still alive and under “their” mother’s pathetically desperate protection.

What does this “erase” thing even mean?

Really Erased

I can think of a few good examples. Western civilization is being erased. You can’t study it in college anymore. A good friend of mine, professor at a major Bible-belt American university, tried hard to start a Western Civ program, put years into it, and finally gave up. If you do study Western Civ, count on hearing what’s wrong with it.

The legacy of “dead white men” is being erased, both its wisdom and its foolishness. You can’t even reflect on it seriously now. I read Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms as part of a required “ATL” course (American Thought and Language) during my freshman year in college. I found it a long, ultimately hopeless discourse on the absolute finality of death. Still I learned from it. And can you even imagine a college requiring freshmen to study American thought and language anymore?

America’s founders and heroes are being erased, their statues toppled, their thoughts and words excised from public view.

There is such a thing as real erasure, and it really can be terrifying — but not the way Lefevre thinks.

Our administration appears to be erasing marriage. The Surgeon General reported last month on epidemic loneliness, and mentioned marriage only in passing. There was absolutely no mention of divorce. If you thought marriage and divorce might have something to do with being lonely or not, the administration has x’d that right out of public policy. It’s as if they want it removed from public awareness.

There is such a thing as real erasure, and it really can be scary — but not in the way Lefevre thinks. I grew up hearing stories of “the end of civilization as we know it.” They were terrifying, they were meant to be, and for good reason. Now the people behind these erasures are openly trying to do that: to put an end to Western civilization, “civilization as we know it.”

How Do You Erase a Seven-Year-Old?

But Lefevre thinks her 7-year-old is being erased. What does that even mean? Is it a metaphor, a stand-in word for something else? Maybe. I almost hope so, because the other possibility is even worse.

As a metaphor, I’m guessing it means not being validated for being who you think you are. Lefevre’s 7-year-old is “non-binary, and his or her “non-binariness” is being “erased.” I guess that would bother you if you thought it was true. But the language is still badly overblown, even in that case. Some people disagree; she says they’re “terrorists.” Seriously? Yes: Seriously disconnected from reality. I wrote “his or her” there. That’s me saying I don’t agree with “non-binary.” It is not me committing a terrorist act.

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Maybe she’s distressed that some people won’t validate her 7-year-old’s “authentic self.” She doesn’t say that here, but many others have. Lia Thomas, for one, who kept talking about his “authentic self” all through a podcast in which he also revealed his authentically supreme self-centeredness. Pardon me for not being a fan of everyone’s “authentic self.”

“Invalidate” Works Both Ways (Or Not At All)

Lefevre’s video “invalidates” my worldview as much as the Target boycott “invalidates” hers. She’s not using words like “boycott,” though. She’s calling us terrorists. That’s serious “invalidation.” The charge works against her as much as it does against us, in other words. Either that or — my real opinion — it doesn’t work at all.

Fact is, I’d rather have the chance to just talk with her about how we don’t agree. I can’t, though. I couldn’t even if we were sitting across the table from each other. I’d want to talk about who’s closer to the truth, she’d want to talk about how her child is being invalidated. If I pointed out how the “invalidating”accusation works the same both ways, I could pretty much count on her shrieking “Terrorist!” and running from the room.

“Identity = Sexual Identity”?

Still it almost makes sense if you buy into the sexual-identity trap, the one that says “my identity is equal to my sexual identity.” If I say some sexual identities are built on a lie, she may hear that as, “My 7-year-old’s entire life is built on a lie.” If I say some sexual identity “choices” should be put away as a bad memory, she might think I’m saying her 7-year-old should be put away as a bad memory, too.

She’d be wrong. Pathetically wrong. It’s such a truncated view of what it means to be human. No one’s children can be reduced to nothing but their sexual choices!

She won’t take this child to Target in June, because the child would discover “they” are being “erased.” How much better if she took him or her — even “they,” if she insists on that — to Target, so she could teach him or her something about the world, and something about being who we are in the world:

The world is full of differences. Don’t let them scare you. Face them for what they are. Take them on as a challenge. You believe you’re right? Fine. Let this be your chance to think thorough you really are. And remember: There’s a whole lot more to you than just being non-binary.

That’s too advanced for a 7-year-old, which means (among other things) she’s an irresponsible mom, letting this young child make a “non-binary” declaration. Imagine it was a 15-year-old instead. I’d still think she was wrong in many ways — but not as wrong as she is with this talk of terrorists and erasure!

If It’s Not a Metaphor After all

So that’s what we run into if we take “erase” as a metaphor for “invalidate.” But what if it isn’t a metaphor for anything at all? What if it’s just a scare-word? What if it’s just propaganda, not meant to mean anything, only to do something: To cause people to cower before it and comply.

Call them on it. Be courageous! It’s okay: You have reality on your side.

Consider that likely every time you see language overloaded with emotion and emptied of meaning. It’s not wrong because it means the wrong thing, it’s wrong because it’s doing the wrong thing. It co-opts language, using it to dominate instead of communicate. It disconnects words from meaning, including the all-important meanings of right and wrong, truth and falsehood. It’s persuasion built on power, not on truth. That’s wrong. It’s always wrong.

How to Answer?

So how do you respond to this language of “terrorism” and “erasure”? If it’s someone you’re talking to face to face, ask him to explain what he means by those words. Don’t let him off with easy answers. Keep asking until you find out what he’s confused over. If he’s using the words as a power hammer, call him out on it. Be courageous! It’s okay: You have reality on your side.

If you see it online, just tell yourself it’s meaningless, and it doesn’t need to bother you.

If someone you care about runs into it, do the same thing I’m doing here: Help him understand what these words are really about. Sort through the mixed-up, misused language with them. Show it for the pathetic foolishness it is. And maybe even grieve for the person who’s caught up in it.

Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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