One of the hard parts about being a writer, a journalist or a blogger — indeed any profession where you put yourself out into the public eye — is you never know how someone is going to react to your work. Everybody likes praise and, aside from a few journo friends of mine, nobody really likes personal attacks.
And I say personal attacks, because that’s a whole different animal than a critique or a criticism or even someone railing against your ideas. I have no problem with fiery dialogue. I welcome discourse and debate. I am fully aware that you can’t please everyone all the time and that there are plenty of people in the world who disagree with everything I stand for. I have had a lot of very interesting conversations over the years with people I passionately disagree with on one or more issues and at the end of the conversation, we ended things pleasantly and walked away (or even went out for a drink). You can disagree with someone with respect.
What I can’t respect, nor abide, is someone who drives right by healthy, passionate debate and crashes right into irrational, grotesque personal attack. You know, “You’re lucky I never met you in a dark alley.” Or, “Cunts like you deserve to be locked in a basement and beaten to death.” (Both of which were said to me because of stories I wrote as a journalist.)
Now, over the years I’ve gotten a thick-enough skin. I can take it on the chin if that’s how it has to be. And of course I’ve been called just about every name in the book — bitch, whore, feminazi, hack, cunt, degenerate, and on and on. Especially in my past-life as a journalist, it just came with the territory. Sometimes it was simply because the caller or e-mailer hated women. Sometimes it was because the subject of a story pissed them off. Rarely did it ever have to do with facts or the substance of a story or truth. (Because people with rational complaints usually express them in some logical form, even if they are angry.)
In fact, in my newsroom days I was known as a cool-head under such circumstances. Unlike a lot of my colleagues I rarely fought with those people. I don’t think there’s any point to it because a person who comes at you like that isn’t interested in rational dialogue. All they are interested in is a fight. And they will pull you down into the mud as quick as lightning. So why bother? If it was a phone call, I would let them bluster for a while until they ran out of steam and then I’d ask them if they wanted to talk to my editor. (Anyone with a legitimate complaint would say yes.) If it was an e-mail I would reply with a simple, “thank you for your comments. I’ve passed them on to my editor” and would cc my editor on it. Done. It’s hard to fight with someone if they won’t fight back. And frankly, no matter how much you scream at me or call me names, if I am certain that I have truth on my side, it really doesn’t matter what you say. Loudest does not equal truth.
So why am I telling you, my dear readers, all about this? Well, today when I checked in on the blog while eating a delicious organic sandwich, I had a pending comment that took my breath away.
Here it is:
Submitted on 2009/05/01 at 2:21pm
Maybe your dead relatives will see all the murdered masses of the children Planned Parenthood is responsible in the hereafter. Probably not, just read your daddy in-law loved fags and your cousin was a commie.
That’s a vile little nastygram if I ever saw one. And what set “The Unborn” (which is obviously not their real name) off? My post that Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada was joining the Sin City Sirens’ Race for the Cure team (race day is tomorrow, yeah!). What a horrible, evil person I am for running a 5K and raising money to cure breast cancer.
Okay, so this person probably hates women, liberals, feminists, queers and abortion-rights activists. Hell, they probably hate themselves.
This is definitely not the first time I’ve gotten a baby-killer-themed comment on this blog. It won’t be the last. And frankly, that’s not the part that bothers me. I’m not immune to the fact that there’s a plague of pro-lifers in the world who would like nothing more than to force me and every other woman into a real-life Handmaid’s Tale where I have no autonomy over my body or any power to stop others from making decisions about my body. It’s the Uterus Wars. You think that women should have no say over what happens to or inside their uterus, vagina or any other body part that can be used in a sexual context. Furthermore, I think deep down you believe that women are not as fully actualized or as capable of having a relationship with The Divine. You think we are inferior. Not just you-throw-like-a-girl inferior but truly less-than.
That’s your opinion. I don’t agree. And one of the best things about living in America is that I don’t have to apologize for having an opinion and expressing it. I have the beautiful, coveted right to speak freely. And so do you, The Unborn, or Turkey, as I’d rather call you.
So Turkey, if you had gone on my blog today and posted a comment about how much you hate abortion and the people who fight for reproductive choice, I’d still disagree with you. But underneath that I would hold a basic level of human respect for you. After all, this land is your land, too. You are free to speak your mind. And I might even engage in a spirited back-and-forth to discuss the concepts at hand. When does life start? Is abortion wrong? Is there a God? God love this country!
But where I draw the line is when you make it personal. Indeed, the only comments on this blog that I censor are those that are spam or those that personally attack. I won’t be a third-party to someone’s intention to do real, physical harm to another. Period.
I’m not going to deny, even for a second, that this comment hurts me. On a personal level, it does. That’s below the belt, Turkey. Instead of attacking my ideas, you attacked the memory of not one, but two loved ones I lost last year to cancer. My cousin and my father-in-law are not a part of this conversation. You’re argument is with me, Turkey. And don’t forget it!
The memory of these two people is not just something that I hold dear, but many, many others do as well. So when you speak ill of the dead, you hurt many people. You are a cruel fool. You do not know of whom you speak when you speak ill of them. My father-in-law and my cousin each spent their lives helping others and trying to make the world a better place, something you obviously cannot understand, Turkey. They understood the value of helping your neighbor, building community, doing what was right even when it was difficult and they certainly knew that one the deepest forms of love God gave us is to love one another equally, without judgment. And yes, that includes “fags.” These are two people that are out of your league, Turkey. Don’t forget it. (PS: Who still uses “commie” as a put-down anyway?)
So, yes, I’ve had an emotional reaction to this. But it’s also raised in me a bit of an ethical quandary. I don’t usually omit comments just because I don’t agree with them. But this comment holds more than just a dissenting view. I decided to publish the comment in the form of this post but not approve it as a normal comment. The reason being that according to the constraints of this blog, once I approve someone they are approved to comment as they like until I rescind such rights. I could not stomach the idea of checking on my blog and finding 50 similar comments from Turkey.
I feel certain that the majority of Siren readers hold similar views as me and might even jump in to defend my ideas or even me as a person. But the idea of that just seemed like a waste of time. For a while, Turkey would win because s/he would be, in a way, controlling the dialogue. And we have way too much to do to be side-tracked by cruel Turkeys.
Take care out there. Enjoy Pride Week. Enjoy Race for the Cure. Enjoy immigrant pride. Enjoy the life, full of freedoms hard won, that we live. And pray for a day when we’re all equal under the sun.