I decided to begin this series with a rant that comes more from the heart than from one of those places that feels like toes crammed all day into shoes that are a size too small. This one is about disagreement and acknowledgment.
We all live with disagreement every day. It hovers around us to some degree, in offices and in our homes (even if our only companions are pets and broadcast media.) It sits on the bus with us, rides in the next car on the road, follows as we make choices in the supermarket and looks over our shoulders as we vote. Disagreement is everywhere, always. So why do some of us have trouble dealing with even the faintest whiff of it? Why does polite discourse set them off?
I realize that conditions I’m unaware of could be where some of these answers lie, but I’m also sure that until that type of answer is clear, at least somewhat, we all do society a favor by not jumping to conclusions. I believe it’s best, initially, to attempt polite conversation with a person as if they understand the notion of polite conversation. It’s good practice for life, especially if you have to work for a living, make it there and back home each day (sometimes stopping off to buy dinner fixings on the way), or perhaps raise children who’ll be able to do these things, too.
Last week I was offended by a ‘brave’ very short story written by a woman who didn’t state whether she was black or white, but who appeared to be white because of some strangeness that didn’t sit well with me in the story she appeared to have written from a black perspective. In about three short paragraphs of comment, I politely left a few points for her consideration.
She answered with a long comment that went on and on about how happy she was to have received such detailed feedback and, if I recall correctly because it’s all gone now, she seemed to think I liked her work and was trying to encourage it in its present state. She said more than once that she was sorry she couldn’t acknowledge anything I’d actually said within her lengthy reply, but she just didn’t have time.
I’ve been told by others that I’m not always as plain-spoken as I think I am and that it can often be hard to tell whether I’m angry, pissed off, sad or ready to step over a cliff. I re-read my comment and wondered if I had been polite to a fault and caused her to misunderstand. That would be unfortunate considering my points. But could the length and opaqueness of her answer also have been an elaborate pat on the head to shut me up? I left about two sentences more to say I understood her not having time to respond. I just wanted to be clear that as a black woman, I was offended by her story.
I was actually hoping she would tell me that the only problem with her story was that the protagonist was white and she didn’t make that clear enough for me to see despite the photograph illustrating her post, but she didn’t say that. I was hoping she might say that yes her protagonist was black, but she didn’t realize that it was so dangerous for a black person to get so close as to “brush past” a Klansman. I was hoping she would briefly note the feelings of a person who was offended by what she wrote, and that as an artist she would consider why, how or if the point of view she tried to convey was one she knew as well as she thought she did.
I’m all for brave. It felt brave to me to write about my feelings in her comments section considering how many pats on the back she already had there. But do I really want to be a person who isn’t understood because I didn’t even try? Do I want to be quiet because race is such a tough subject that I should be grateful she tried to address it in her work at all? Hell no.
Yes, it’s her blog and she gets to do and say what she wants. She gets to delete our ‘exchange’ and add a verrry long couple of rants about people who get offended because she hasn’t got time to respond to every single comment she gets and, doggone it, she’s not even going to worry about trying to be ‘nice’ to people anymore. Okay. And I get to wonder what makes a writer, who can write so many words in one sitting that don’t address anything much, prefer to do that than to write a single paragraph about their work to someone who took the time to read it more than once and who left a direct, but polite, comment in the little box that asked, “What do you think?”
If it’s an aversion to disagreement, well WTF, you can change what the little box says. It doesn’t take so many hot, airy words to do that.
Postscript: I didn’t want a link to this post to just pop up in her comment feed since her own feelings seem to be so sensitive. (Besides, she knows where I am, if she cares what I write.) But in the hours since I wrote this, I’ve realized that I can just say where her blog is if anyone is interested in reading her story. Her blog address is scriptorwrites.wordpress.com and the story is called, “Ain’t None of Us Got a Clean Soul Heah.”