Picking a fight

Picking a fight February 23, 2011

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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