Recently – especially within the last week or so – I’ve had a number of folks tell me that they used to idolize me and my work for opening their minds, and yet they’re somehow surprised that I feel disgusted and enraged by sexism, racism, homophobia, and the willful ignorance that leads to such behavior.
Anyone who feels that I should turn a blind eye to abusive behavior has missed the point of my work.
Yes, I believe in having an open mind.
I have also – in all of my work – stressed that actions and choices have consequences.
When someone identifies with, and defends, a group of people whose actions include rape-threats, death-threats, doxxing, hacking of personal information, and jaw-dropping levels of misogyny and bullying, then that person also chooses the consequences of being hated for being a member of that group.
It is not bigotry to loathe a bigot for his actions. Nor is it “progressive” to assume that everyone is entitled to their opinion when that “opinion” also includes abusive behavior and willful blindness to established facts.
My parents both raised me with the idea that hating a person for that person’s skin-color, gender, faith, or for any reason other than that individual’s behavior is not only morally wrong and intellectually stupid but also socially counterproductive.
And so, I feel – and have always felt – a strong connection to, and compassion for, people who are oppressed for being “different.”
I am the grandchild of immigrants – people who came from Sicily, Sweden and Yugoslavia in the early 1900s, and who in many cases were essentially forced to live in ethnic ghettos with “their own kind.” I have flamboyant mannerisms, and so the first few times I heard the words “faggot” and “fairy,” they were being applied to me. I have sensory processing conditions that were not understood when I was a child, and so I was considered “retarded,” “stupid,” “not trying hard enough.” I may even be on the high-function end of the Asperger’s spectrum… although if so, then I’ve kinda learned to compensate for cues I did not understand. I’ve been abused by family, raped by a lover, and slandered by people who know me only by name. I was bullied for being smart in Virginia, for being white in Hawaii, and for being ostensibly gay in middle school. By the time I hit high school, I was remote, defensive, insecure, shy, and often condescending to people who I didn’t feel were on my wavelength. My attitude, since then, has been “fuck that shit.” Gee, I wonder why.
Art, in many ways, has saved my life and my soul. And that art has always – from my very first creations – held a moral fury against oppression and the people who commit it.
It staggers me to consider how anyone could miss that element of my work.
It saddens and astonishes me that people who claim to have been inspired by my work could possibly feel betrayed that I loathe racism, sexism, religious fundamentalism, political extremism, apologists for all of those things, and the sort of willful ignorance that leads people to such conclusions.
There’s a deep vein of moral outrage that runs through my work. It’s been there since my first published stories, and has grown only stronger over time. I believe that – at least for me personally – it is an artist’s moral duty to confront abuses of power and inspire people to want better, and to BE better, than wallowing in the selfish excesses of suicidal apes.
Now, I DO understand that bullies feel wronged. In many cases, folks who lash out at weaker “others” HAVE been bullied themselves, and are simply passing that shit along. I’ve even – to my continued mortification – been guilty of doing that myself
But I’m always striving to be better than that.
In my work, I have always sought to inspire people to be better than that as well.
I guess sometimes that message seems unclear.
So here it is, as clear as I can make it:
An “open mind” does not mean accepting abuse.
Compassion does not mean letting people treat you badly.
Freedom is not an excuse to abuse people, and an opinion is valid only if you can support it with objective and verifiable facts.
“Bodhisattva” is not Sanskrit for “doormat,” and abuse brings retaliation from the abused.
I DO believe in respectful communication, and compromise, and coming to as close an understanding with one another as possible.
But I also feel there are limits.
And “respect” is impossible when one party bomb-threatens, or rape-threatens, or bullies, or assaults, or hacks into the personal information of their rival and then posts it up on the Internet and lets like-minded folks play Whack-A-Mole with that person’s life.
At that point, I’m fucking DONE.
And if somehow, someone ever read my work and thought that I should be okay with that sort of behavior because “open-minded” or whatever, then the answer has always been No.
Thank you for understanding.
And please try to be decent to one another. After all, we’re stuck with each other whether we want to be or not.