Daring to Disagree

It’s almost mid-December(!), and I’ve decided to take stock of where I am writing-wise. My goal for this month was to publish a blog post a day, and so far, I’ve made that goal. The posts are not as polished as I’d like them to be, but I didn’t want to get caught in the trap of endlessly editing them and letting them languish in my draft folder. So, while the posts aren’t great, I’m pleased that I’m back in the groove of writing one post a day. It gets easier with each post, and I can feel the rust falling off my brain every time I start typing. However, I’m frustrated because one of the reasons I decided to publish a post a day* was because of the reason I stopped blogging in general. That’s a convoluted sentence, but I think you get the gist of what I’m trying to say. In explaining it further, I’m going to have to go own a side road that may take some time, so bear with me.

Twitter has been a boon for many reasons, several of which I wrote about in a prior post. It’s also been a burden, and one of the reasons is because the shoutiest voices are the ones who get the most traction. Even as I’m tying this, there’s an almost physical force in my head squeezing my brain saying, “Don’t write that. Keep it to yourself”, and I phrased it in the most neutral way possible. I used to have that defensive wall around myself all the time, keeping everything in and everyone out. I thought that I was so toxic, I didn’t want to affect everyone around me. I’ve gotten better at letting down my defenses, but Twitter has made me put them right back up again. I see so many people scolding and lecturing on a daily basis about what other people should and shouldn’t think, it’s causing me to pull away from politics** completely and to hunker down back inside myself. I don’t like the terms political correctness and thought police, but I do feel both of them have a germ of truth on liberal Twitter. There are certain trends of thoughts that if you don’t one-hundred percent agree with, you’re considered a traitor. It’s nativism at its worse, and we’re almost as susceptible to it as are conservatives.

In addition, there’s a smug morality to the scolding that doesn’t sit well with me. If someone doesn’t think the way you do, then that person is lesser and worthy of contempt. I’m not saying there isn’t any validity to that as I definitely look down on Donald Trump and his followers*** and think his ideas are contemptible, but I’m seeing it being applied to almost every idea these days, and it’s one reason I don’t use Twitter to express my political beliefs very often any longer. In addition, there’s a piling on mentality that I find distasteful. For example, a celebrity says something that the left deems loathsome. They pile on this person for hours if not days, demanding s/he apologize or get fired. Then, when they’ve dragged this person up and down Twitter, they declare it a job well done and move on to the next poutrage of the day. It’s not even a celebrity, necessarily, it can be anyone who’s hapless enough to get caught in the net. At the same time, these are the same people who decried Martin Bashir getting fired from MSNBC for expressing his views on Sarah Palin. You can’t have it both ways. If you want others to hew to what you deem is correct thought and speech, then others have that same right as well. Me, I don’t believe in getting people fired for their thoughts with some exceptions.**** I hate the recent trend of someone ranting about a barista at their Starbucks doing something questionable and then that barista getting fired because of social media pressure. It feels good in the moment, but it’s ultimately meaningless. I have an analogy I use often that fits this situation. Back when smoking was first banned from public places in Minnesota, you’d see smokers huddling outside the door, miserable in the cold, smoking as the people walking by glared at them and lectured them on the evils of smoking. This, mind you, as there were cars surrounding them belching out exhaust smoke and smokestacks streaming out their effluvia as well. My explanation is that the mass problem (environmental pollution) is so vast, the mind can’t parse how to solve it, so it’s easier to latch on to something concrete and discrete–the individual smoker. You may not be able to stop cars and factories from polluting the air, but by god, you told that smoker off!

In the same way, there are so many issues that are entrenched in our society, such as racism, that it can seem impossible to change the social and institutional structures that prop it up. Instead, oh my god, that rando said something really racist on Twitter, so lets get him/her fired! I understand that it feels like you’re actually accomplishing something, but you’re not. If you don’t tackle the underlying problems, then those instances are symbolic and ultimately meaningless. In addition, you’re messing with a person’s life–someone who may not have meant what s/he said, may have been misinterpreted, or maybe really is a shitty person, but who still needs to eat and pay rent. I’ve heard the excuse, “Well, then that person shouldn’t have tweeted what s/he did!”, and yet, the same people making that excuse will staunchly say that they should be able to say whatever they want on Twitter without consequence.

It’s the hypocrisy that gets to me. The very things they decry in conservatives are the things they’re doing themselves. But, on a more personal level, seeing that constant stream of condemnation from people who are purportedly on my side reinforces the negative voices in my head. “Don’t say this.” “How the hell can you think that?” “You’re a bad person if you don’t agree!” I used to joke that I was tolerant of all but the intolerable, but it’s not really a joke. I don’t have any desire to engage with people who are rigid in their beliefs, whether that person is a conservative or liberal. In fact, when I know that my beliefs are rigid (as they are with abortion), I rarely discuss them because I know I won’t change my mind. In the same way, if I see someone ranting about something to the point where s/he refuses to listen to anything to the contrary, I’m not interested in talking to that person.

So, back to the main point of this post–why I stopped blogging in general. All these voices shouting what I should and shouldn’t think/say triggered my defenses and hardened them to the point where I can’t even think certain thoughts without feeling bad. Any time I try to write about it, there’s a voice in my head saying, “Don’t say that, you jerk. People will think you’re bad!” I’m reaching the point, though, where I’m pissed that I’ve allowed myself to fall back into that mode. I’ve done a lot of hard work to reach the point in which I can believe some of the time that my opinion actually matters. To be back to the mentality that I should just shut up and not say anything makes me angry. It also makes me sad because I know there are other people who feel the same way. Any time I mention something about it on Twitter, I have people DMing me, saying they agree, but they don’t want to put themselves out there on the main TL because they know they’ll get flak for it. These are thoughtful, sensitive people who would add great value to any given discussion, and yet, they don’t want to deal with the blowback they’ll encounter for their contrary opinions. I can’t blame them because that’s essentially where I’ve been for the past year or so.

I can’t keep quiet any longer, though. Once I started feeling uncomfortable expressing my opinions, I stopped blogging. Once I stopped blogging, I started feeling intellectually stifled. Writing is integral to thinking for me. What I mean is, if I can’t write about an issue, I can’t really flesh it out. Sure, I can think about it and talk about it with friends, but there’s something about seeing it in black and white that helps me synthesize my thoughts as nothing else does. I don’t know if writing about it actually shapes the way I think, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it’s true. Writing is my life blood, and I am lost without it. Even writing reams of shit on a daily basis is better than not writing at all. When I don’t write, I feel dead inside, like everything is frozen.

Here are some of the issues that I need to write about, but that I’m hesitant to do so because I’m afraid people won’t like me: safe spaces and trigger words (why I’m both for and against them); gender is not completely a social construct; personal experience is important, but it’s not the be-all, end-all; not every issue has to be about you (or me); even if you’re part of a minority group, it doesn’t mean you’re always right about said group; life is shitty for most everyone, even people in the majority; if your ideals/beliefs cannot be argued with, they’re too fragile.

I could write posts for the rest of the month and never touch on any of those issues. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I can write 2,000 words on just about any topic–a blessing because, well, obviously, that means I can write fairly easily on something I feel passionate about . A curse because it means I can dance around dicey topics by writing 2,000 words on how I hate the lint in my belly button. I exaggerate, but not by much. It’s time to confront the voices both inside my head and outside of it that are telling me explicitly and implicitly that my opinion doesn’t matter, and what better way than to write as if my life depends on it? Because, in a way, it does. I find myself becoming bitter because I’m swallowing my opinion more often than not, even though I feel them as intensely as I ever had. That’s the thing about all this shouting and yelling–it doesn’t change anyone’s mind. i may not express my opinions any longer, but i still have them. So, again, it’s short-sighted in that it makes the person yelling feel good, but it’s not actually accomplishing anything concrete. The only thing I know to do at this point is to write–we’ll see if I can actually do it.




*Other than to make sure I keep writing daily after I did so for NaNoWriMo.

**Both actual politics and anything considered political.

***Donald Trump is not the problem–he’s merely the symptom. It’s the fact that so many people enthusiastically embrace his heinous ideas that’s the problem. I do have to laugh at the GOP for frantically trying to distance themselves from him, however. For years, they’ve been running on fear and hatred and bigotry, but they’ve tried to keep it undercover. Trump is just the logical extension of their beliefs–he just doesn’t put a pretty face on it. They made it so he was possible to flourish in their party, so they have to now own it and him.

****Cops, judges, politicians are a few of my exceptions. Anyone in the position of power/making policy need to be better than the average person.

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