Picking a fight

I have a confession to make. I did something that I have made it a point to never do, and to be honest, I don’t even feel guilty about it. I don’t. Seriously. Not even one little bit.

Maybe I should, but I don’t, and that’s not why I’m telling you. I’m telling you about it because frankly I think it’s about high time we discussed this matter.

Censorship. That’s what I did. I censored remarks posted to this blog. I actually moved them to the trash, then deleted them completely. So I can’t even tell you word for word what they said but I can tell you they didn’t contain any dirty words. They weren’t mean or ugly or otherwise snarky. They were well-reasoned and thoughtful but seemingly misguided.

They weren’t submitted by spammers but they weren’t submitted by regular readers of this blog, either. But that’s not why I trashed them. I do routinely trash spam, and have on one other occasion deleted comments that were not relevant to posts but were meant to be nothing more than a personal attack on me.

The reason I trashed these most recent comments is that they took offense where none was intended. In my post about Lady Gaga I noted that like Madonna, she was educated at Catholic schools, and while they didn’t seem to develop a love for Jesus, they did develop an affinity for idols.

I would have said the exact same thing if they had attended Baptist schools. My point had nothing to do with Catholicism or Catholics, but had everything to do with what happens when what people take away from such educational experiences is dogma and very little else.

Some years ago I heard the author Janisse Ray speak at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. I’d read Ray’s book The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, which has become one of my most cherished books. If you haven’t yet read it you should. It’s excellent.

Ray grew up in a junkyard in south Georgia. Her father was an evangelical and a fundamentalist. (They are often confused but are by no means one in the same.) Ray rejected the Christ of her father’s faith, but she didn’t escape the dogmatic fervor with which she was raised. She simply became a fundamentalist about environmental issues, instead of matters of salvation. When she spoke about the demise of the long-leaf pine she did so with the same passion and style I imagine her father employed, or any other tent preacher that comes to your mind. Ray can preach – she just preaches about how we need to better caretakers of the earth in which we live.

Ray and her father, as she described him, appeared to be two sides of the same coin. And that’s the point I was making about Madonna and Gaga — they have different messages but their style is the same. They are both marketing sluts.

A person could perhaps rightfully argue that I could have made that point without the reference to their shared Catholic upbringing. But, then again, if arguing is what you want, you can do that on a gazillion sites on the web. But as for me and my blog, I’m done arguing. I see no real value in it.

Discussion. Sure. It’s welcome and encouraged. It’s not that I’m seeking to delete anyone who disagrees with me. Hardly. As the always insightful Flannery O’Connor put it: I’m not afraid that what I write will be controversial. I’m afraid that it won’t be.

Every writer has their goal — to entertain, to seduce, to shock, or to inform.  Mine is always simply to encourage readers to think. That’s all. If you act upon your thoughtful reflections, well, by golly, that’s a red-letter day. But I simply want you to think about what I’ve said. That’s all. Not agree with me. But to know why you don’t.

So I didn’t delete the comments because folks disagreed with me. I deleted them because they took offense where none was intended and diverted the conversation I was trying to have.

I’m here having a front-porch discussion with you. If you go off on some tangent, or get your back in the air because of some perceived wrong-doing, and you’re sitting on my front-porch, I’m going to sip my tea and ignore your rant until you calm down and we can get back to discussing the matter at hand.

The discussion I intended to have was about the manipulations of the Master of the Art of Fame. I deleted the comments because they were co-opting the discussion into a defense of the Catholic faith. Being the media slut I am, I totally understand how it is that such things happen. I just wasn’t about to let it happen here. So I deleted those comments and my potentially offending aside (which was a parenthetical observation anyway).

But can I just say, for the record, that whatever happened to being “slow to take offense”? Is it just me, or does it seem to you that people are just waiting along the sidelines for the perfect opportunity to pick a fight?

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  • Karen, I saw that comment of yours about being raised Catholic, and I knew exactly what you meant. And considering how clueless I can be, it seems that if I can get it, others should have, too.

    So the question is: are the complainers denser than me? I doubt it’s possible. The only possible explanation that remains is that they looking to be offended. Are there people out there looking for something wrong with any statement that is made, so they can argue? Oh yeah. Very much so. I could tell you some stories.

    Good for you for deleting the comments (which I never saw). The point of your post was lost in the comments over a non-issue. Deleting was the right thing.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      You’re a good man Charlie Brown.

  • Sharon O

    You have every right to delete whatever comes your way if it is hurtful or unkind or out for a wrong purpose. That is why my blog is private. I guess I just don’t want to deal wth people who are unking. God bless you as you continue to write.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Ah…Sharon… it goes against my upbringing, this censorship thing. I like to hear from folks, good, bad and otherwise. I just thought the conversation about Lady Gaga was too important of a conversation to have it derailed.

  • Sharon O

    oops I meant to say unkind… a spelling error~ sorry :o(
    I hit the send button too soon.

  • Steve Taylor

    So Karen, you know I grew up down the road in Warner Robins. (For those who don’t know, it was the nosiest place in Georgia during my youth, with B-52s roaring around all times of the day — the planes, not the band.) And frankly, I’m offended my your term using the term “Cracker.” I’d tell Ray I was offended too, but Ray is not here to YELL at. So, what are you saying us from Georgia — that we are some kind of suthern trash who eat chitlin’s, don’t know that baptist aren’t supposed to drink on Saturday night, and think that mud rassling should be an ‘Lympic sport? Is that what you are emmmplying? And as for Cracker Childhood … I don’t much like children either!

    In today’s America? Why would anyone believe people might be waiting to pick a fight?

    • Steve Taylor

      Yep, like Sharon … too quick on the keys … “I’m offended by your using the term …” sigh.

      • Karen Spears Zacharias

        Steve, you still out there? I thought you had left us for loftier grounds. I’ll be in NC next week.

        • Steve Taylor

          Yep, still very much here. Just a bit overwhelmed with juggling too many good things. Following along, just not posting much. And … surely wouldn’t want to vacate space with such good folks and good ponderings … or the bit of scandal from time to time.

  • Wanda

    Oh, Karen. We are a fussin’ bunch of humanoids aren’t we?! I’ll say it up front, with a fist in the air, “Right on, Sister!” It’s your front porch. Go for it!! You do host a nice gathering, IMHO. So, God bless.

    Having said that, the whole speed-of-light, hurry to get MY feelings and disagreements logged into that discussion is getting to be a bit worrisome and wearisome.

    So-called, Christian folks will get down-right nasty on the web page in ways that I know (at least I hope) they wouldn’t face-to-face. The anonymity that the Internet allows, and the lack of time we are taking to think through and craft our thoughts with kindness, has produced an air of rancor that makes me want to leave and go watch an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

    Don’t let them get you down. You are a joy to many. I say, “Take a big sip of that sweet tea and use that fly swatter freely whenever those nasty bugs fly too close.”

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Wanda: Yes, we have a good bunch of folks lolly-gagging around this here porch. Rednecks and Canadians alike. A few preaches, some saints, and a whole lot of sinners. As a rule I try to stick to the journalistic code of avoiding censorship, but there comes a time and a place. Of course the people who need to read this post won’t ’cause as one said, I don’t want to read your stuff if you are going to bad-mouth Catholics.

  • You’re just ornery, that’s all…

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Truer words were never typed.

  • John in PDX

    Hey Tim,
    Karen is done arguing? I really got a chuckle on this one! I’ll buy lunch if she lasts a week!
    Oh wait, it was only the blog that she quit arguing. My bad.
    I had to do MOW today – not enough drivers – it was 38 and dry pavement. These Climatogists are awesome.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      John: There you go taking what I said out of context. I never meant I was done arguing with Tim. 🙂
      I know those MOW folks are glad you show up in good weather and bad!