I have been away from these commentaries for some time now, a sad evolution of my life considering that I used to write something, often believed to be important, every single day. Now don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to be arrogant nor pat myself on the back. I do not wish to come across as the sort of asshole who cannot understand why people don’t think me brilliant. What I mean by such a pompous statement is that the issues and ideas I have attempted to take on are quite serious. It has as much to do with my own quest for understanding this chaotic world as it does with my obnoxious need to let you know how I think the world works. But all of this is post-essay reflection and has nothing to do with the bulk of my words.
Recently a single piece of mine has gone ‘viral,’ whatever that means. I wrote it back in August, 2019, and it’s title is “The Feminization of Masculinity.” From the start I had some angry responses.
That piece was more about changes within our culture and not just gender issues and the wholesale slaughter of who we believe ourselves to be. It was not meant to be a condemnation of anyone or anything individually, the story acknowledging that people make their own ways through the world and should not be judged for their preferences, decisions, nor even their confusion over identity. It was not an attack of prejudice. And yet the hypersensitive world, this ghoulish time we live in where people actually want to be offended, almost a sexual need to raise themselves into a combative state to prove to someone, anyone (most likely themselves) that they are more moral than another. I have never wished to proclaim such a hollow goal, accepting the fact that plenty of people will think I am wrong and some might even hate me through their skimmed misunderstanding of the larger question I tried to ask.
But all of this is meaningless, finally, the cool cash I have made because a bunch of people both approve or hate something I have said giving me a superficial insight that if I piss enough people off (whether intentionally or not), this is what people want, what they will listen to, and the ideas they choose sides on, hoping that their responses overwhelm both the pro and con ideologies, as well as the thing (in this case a possession of my own) that has set them off into a ‘whisper-down-the-lane,’ their own ideas consuming the original point and changing the discussion into something never mentioned.
This is both the dream and the curiosity of a writer, such misunderstanding somehow providing your success, giving your ideas a confused aftermath, an almost laughable wonder over how some person could have thought that whatever you were saying means whatever they want it to. But this is what writers endure constantly, the critical response that might have little or nothing to do with the intention. This is what gives us our lifeblood–our careers–and we cannot truly resent the confused rage of someone inexplicably offended.
What I really wanted to say, this early morning on Thanksgiving, here in the United States (and I am the cook, it presently after 2AM, food currently in the oven and a whole shitload more waiting to be prepared and consumed), is that I am thankful, as well as appalled by the insistence of people that their ideas on the nature of the world are the only thoughts worth realizing, and that if you cannot abide such arrogance, then somehow you are either the enemy or simply ignorant. This is not a partisan phenomenon, but a duel-sided violence–the two sides of a scratched up, double-headed coin, viciously trying to outdo one another because all views are now singular and there isn’t really anything worth listening to anymore. I mean, Thanksgiving, this is the time when some asshole relative you have never liked rants on and on after a few drinks about the absolute morality they wish to impose upon their family. And most of us simply roll our eyes and refuse to engage, drinking ourselves into a stupor even prior to the moment when the turkey finally takes us out. And yet there are always those others, equally unlovable and constantly forcing the gritting of our teeth, who for one reason or another fight back and try to prove one idiot wrong with their own parallel version of idiocy.
I have been this sort of fucker in the past, one of those blowhards pretending to be a ‘counter-puncher,’ merely responding to whatever stupidity (in my opinion) somebody else was saying, and yet my entire goal had been to do just that. I had been waiting to prove not just that such-and-such was wrong, but that the person under consideration was stupid for even saying whatever it was they were saying. Of course those words came out in my younger years, my challenge of whichever long-since-dead relative whom I only ever saw on Thanksgiving, and whom I never bothered sending (and never received) a birthday or Christmas card from. Today, now, I simply don’t care enough. I am interested and yet uninterested in challenging another person’s beliefs. Sure, I might think they are wrong. I might even tell them, mock them. But I try to be good-natured about it, pretending that all of us are morons no matter how sincere we are in whatever it is we believe. Somehow this denunciation of humanity gives us a level peace, a mutual agreement on just how foolish all of us are.
I have been extremely busy of late, the cause of my withdrawal from Recording Editorial History. I am working on three books presently, one in its late stages, editing and the occasional rewrites, a project that has taken me many years and which should be entirely finished in 2020. And then there is the major work (or at least the one that should sell the best and make me the most profit), an intense biography that has been a constant for more than a year now. It is an endless cycle of interviews and trips around the country and the occasional desperate attempts to get in touch with individuals from the subject’s past, some of them since phenomenally successful, even very well known and obviously nervous about putting their name on anything not directly promoting their career.
And finally there is a history book, something I have an increased interest with every single day, the bulk of my personal reading dense research into the phenomenon of the subject. Broadly it is a history of my home, of my nation, of our shifting politics and our battle over opposing viewpoints. It is called, after all, Recording Editorial History (with a subtitle I am not yet willing to announce). All three of these projects are, at least in the present tense, my life’s work. And I will continue working and working and working and working, and I suppose that sometimes I will return here to you and give you an idea that may or may not piss you off. I love this website, these more than 3,000 pages I have offered to an extremely limited segment of the world. And there is nothing I want more than to hear your voices, to listen to opposition (or of course praise; I am a lonely, nervous writer, someone who wants to consider themselves an ‘artist,’ and anyone saying something nice can even go so far as to make me cum hands free . . . wait, perhaps that is going too far . . .)
And so I wish you happy holidays. I will no doubt return with another zombie parallel on Christmas (I have a tradition of watching numerous zombie films on Christmas day and my son is finally old enough to join me in the joy of the splatter). I will try to offer something more, something political or historical or on that old safe place of sociology. And I thank you, I am thankful for you. To quote Joseph Conrad, “One lives too long. Happy X-mas.” Happy holidays or whatever PC term applies to our season. Or don’t be happy. Most of us really aren’t at holiday time. Enjoy your hopeful feast that will probably wind up making you sick, or at least cause you to hate yourself because you were trying to diet and then you ate all that savory, greasy crap.
Have a happy morning . . .