I have been traveling recently, quite unexpectedly and not for the happiest of purposes. While I was traveling I have not been able to write as much as I would like. And although I‘ve been back for just about a week now, I’ve had opportunity to write but not the will. My routine has been disrupted. I am out of balance. And this has highlighted for me how much a creature of habit I am and how insular my world has become.
At home I have surrounded myself with like-minded individuals. We are a community of artists and writers, teachers and students. We don’t always agree, but when we disagree it is usually on the finer points of an issue; the interpretation of facts. Not a disagreement on whether those facts exist. That is what I encountered several times on my trip.
First off I want to say that I have made a conscious decision not to write about politics on this blog and I don’t intend to start now. It’s not that I don’t have opinions on politics mind you. In fact if you fly to Colorado and buy me a beer I’d be happy to explain them to you in a rather loud voice with wild gesticulations and an air of self-righteous indignation. It’s just not the direction I wanted this blog to head in.
Note: If you would like to read a little something on the various political views this great country has to offer may I recommend you try going everywhere else on the Internet. It’s just not something I want to do.
That being said I have had several conversations on my trip that I found … disturbing. Again, I’m not going to go into detail on any of these but one such conversation ended with the following words: I was told (and I am not making this up or embellishing this in any way, an actual human being had these words come from their mouth), “I don’t care about the facts, I know what I believe.”
I was stunned. I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch the air for having the audacity to bring the sound of those words to my ear. Instead I muttered something under my breath and walked away.
I suppose I’m getting lazy in my old age; not wanting to engage in confrontation.
This has not always been the case. In fact there was a time not too long ago when I courted confrontation. I would carefully tailor my conversations in order to include a tasty little tidbit specifically designed to induce a reaction. Get ‘em all riled up for an evening of long, intense debate/discussion/argument. On my terms of course, something I was prepared for. This I enjoyed.
But I tended to enjoy it even more when I was unexpectedly hit with something I was not prepared for; an argument so well-crafted that it made me question my own beliefs. That, my friends, was brilliant. And those were the nights I lived for.
But not so much anymore. It has ceased to be entertaining I guess. There has been a distinct attitude change; not just with my generation but the one ahead and behind as well. Good natured ribbing has become genuine insult. A free exchange of ideas passionately expressed has morphed somehow into a completion, something to be won rather than learned from. You’re either on the left side or the right side, the red team or the blue team. No in-betweens. Pick a side and be defined by that and that alone. Where is the fun in that?
And so I have in recent years fallen into quiet complacency. Stick close to the campus, the coffee shop, the well-lit pub and the polite whispers in the library. Places I can pretend enlightenment and compose prose and puns. Places I can avoid anger.
That is why this trip suddenly threw me for a loop. I was confronted with, not just opposing views or ones I simply disagreed with; but ones that were backed up not with facts and well defined arguments but with rumor and innuendo, Internet memes and email spam. I was…discouraged.
And so every time I sat down to write it was to compose some radical screed or angry manifesto. How easy I found it to fall into that mode of thinking. To let free my anger and vitriol and venom; I was amazed at how vicious I could be. And it’s all one sided of course; me simply spewing out what I wanted to say/scream in a torrent of nasty remarks and slurs with capital letters and exclamation points. And I would call it truth and I would call it cathartic and I would call it free speech.
But in the end I did not hit send, I always hit delete. Because in the end that is not what I wanted to say, that is not what I wanted to be.
In the end I always come home.
Home to the writers and the artists and the teachers and the students; to the coffee shops and the campus and the pub and the library. To my insular little world. Perhaps it’s a form of intellectual cowardice, I don’t know. But I am happy here.