There is perhaps nothing I care less about than what someone says they are or identifies as. Or skin color. Save when people lead with those things and try to make them a business model, a way to get ahead, a means through which to be given things on the basis of those things, not what they do or how well they do it. I care about your intelligence. If you're a writer, I care if you can write. If you have any ability. If you create meaningful work with that ability. If there is a point to your work. What's a point? Something that actually adds things to lives. Something that can matter in the here and now and also last. Do you know how rare it is that I can read anything that is published right now, especially with fiction, ask what the point is--for others, for a prospective audience, for a single damn reader in the world--and have a real, viable answer?
I do not care if someone calls themselves trans, nonbinary, cisgender. I will only care because it says something to me if you think you need to speak in terms and say what yours are. I believe a person should let who they are as a person do all of the speaking. If they are a writer, that should do all of the speaking. Your work. Let's see it. Is it any good? Does it suck? Is it great? Let's bloody see it. Here. Put it on my well-lit table. Want to see mine? Let's compare, let's compete. On the basis of our work. Nothing else.
I see these lists from writers and publishers compiling their favorite trans/nonbinary writers. I find that offensive. Be a writer. Have something to say. That's what matters.
If someone thinks there are only two genders, or if someone thinks there are many things a person can be, I also do not care. I don't like or dislike that person more because of their opinion. I can see why, on both sides, a person might think what they do. What do I think? It doesn't matter what I think on that subject one way or the other. It adds nothing to a conversation. It's irrelevant. I care when people who were born male become people who compete against high school girls in sports and dominate these girls who have no chance against the people who were born male. Other than that? It never enters my mind.
You're awesome and you want to be my friend? I'll be your friend. That's my criteria.
I fully admit that I struggle a lot with having any patience for stupidity, and when it comes to stupidity, I am not good at humoring people. I can't just let it roll off my back. Some people can, and they are really good at that. They "don't take it home with them," to use that expression. I do. Even on Instagram. I see someone post the same imbecilic cliches, in some out-of-touch, removed-from-reality way, where there is never ever any evidence of cogitation, again and again, and I just have to unfollow.
Most people I mute on Facebook. The ones I don't mute tend to be people who give up information constantly about the nepotism or cronyism that led to them having something published, or that they published because of those factors. People who marinate in how their sick system of bigotry works and celebrate it. That's mostly why I'm on Facebook. (And also to see photos or news updates of the people I do like quite a bit. You people know who you are. Or maybe some hot, brilliant woman will come in to the private messages one day and be like, "oooh, I read this by you, I read your work, your blog, you inspire me, I'd like to get to know you, but I've been intimidated, but I'm going for it now!") For that info. Which I can use. And which I do use. Those people can't help themselves, and they have no self-awareness.
I would have a very hard time going to a large holiday party. It would, to a degree, be different if I was in a better place in my life, I could laugh it off easier, the dumb things people said. I wouldn't think about the contrast with my life, hearing stupid things from people who led very easy lives, had nice homes, knew nothing, didn't work hard. I don't want to hear that person say dumb things about sports or movies, I don't want them to lecture me on how Rogue One is the best film ever made, I don't want them telling me how the world works in their horrid Boston accents, their broken grammar. Now, if I have millions and I'm going home to Rockport or a second home on Cape Cod, I just won a ninth Pulitzer and used the others as ornaments in my garden because the birds liked them, I could deal with that better. But right now, I can't. And those exchanges would always come, here in my present life, after some day when hours before I had made art for the ages, and that was fresh, and knowing that a system that hated me was going to suppress that work. Live that way, and your entire life is affected.
But even when I was seven, I just had no patience for mental simplicity. You can say, "that's how people are born, it's not their fault," but I don't believe that. We have some say in our intelligence. In fact, I think most people are born pretty much with the same level of intelligence. You choose to work out your brain, to expose it to things. You have mental discipline to try and remember, to learn, to seek out new things. You get smarter. You make the decision to be active with that. Reach out to me for a list of things to read, look at, screen, listen to, and I bet you can be 10% smarter in two weeks. Come into my world for a weekend, walk around with me, go to things with me, talk with me, you'll be smarter then, too. In fact, your life will change. Now, you might flee back to your cave, because it's too challenging, too daunting, feeling that much, thinking that much, realizing what you don't know, learning things that now you know, it's like a great blaze of light, while ambling across Boston. But that's different, the retreat back to the cave. What happened still happened, and it would happen. In my experience, that's too much for people, too much truth, the learning curve is too daunting, there's a panic, feelings of insufficiency, and that's one reason I'm totally alone. There is too much life here, in my world. Is it lonely? You cannot imagine the levels of loneliness in my life. You could not begin to imagine, and that is no knock on your imagination, so please do not take it that way.
I'm not mean to these people. I do my thing, with the humor and the kindness and I ask questions about their lives, what they've been up to, what they think about certain things, because I may learn something. The way I sound on Downtown is the way I sound if I happen to be somewhere. I'm not holding forth on subjects--that wouldn't be the time or the place--but the way we are at the beginning on Downtown when we're joking around or talking about something random, that's how I am if you saw me at your Christmas party, even if I'm thinking about killing myself later that night. Which I probably would be, because, as I have said, this is a daily struggle at this point, and what these people in this system have done to me...it's hard to remain alive, let alone keep going, which are two different things.
This is actually an entry about J.K. Rowling, who said something--I don't even know what, exactly--about trans people. Given the attacks on her, I would assume she said that being trans is not a thing. Again, if you think this, or you think the opposite, I really don't care. Like I said, show me the person. That's all I'm interested in. The person. I am so starved just to see someone--not even know them--who is dynamic, brilliant, articulate, who grows, that I could care less what they are, what they are not, what they say they are, what they say they are not. But this is what's troubling to me. I'm reading through these comments on Facebook by people who love those Harry Potter books--or did--and they have Harry Potter tattoos and whatever. And they want to destroy this woman, which is to be expected, given our climate of intense and insane hatred for others, but they are also saying the books sucked. They were never any good. And it"s like, your body is covered in Harry Potter tattoos. They go on and on about why these books suck. Is there no self-awareness? You read these things fifty times or whatever it was.
My point is that nothing is real anymore. Nothing is a thing. Everything is what you say it is. What your feelings compel you to say it is. That, then, becomes the reality, but it's this crazy, melted down, bastardized version of reality (ever see the Family Guy episode where Stewie makes that little version of himself, Bitch Stewie? It's like that). I find some of these people truly terrifying. That they are out there. They're the same people who, when they can, try to impoverish others. Try to make it so that they can never buy food again. Because they disagree with them. Or, that person said something stupid. Who cares if they said something stupid? You think and say stupid things. I have some news: Every single person you know thinks certain things that if someone else was known to think them, these people would try to end the lives of that person, including all of the people these people know and love, if they are capable of love. That's just life. That's just human variety and fallibility. And it speaks, too, to how people get locked in on everyone else having to think one thing. Every single person these people care about thinks something that if you attributed it to someone else, this kind of person, so rampant in our society now, would want that person dead. And it's not just one thing. It's lots of things.
Do I like J.K. Rowling as a person? No. As an author? No. I think she's slimy, I think she has little talent. I tried to read one of those Harry Potter books--the first one--twenty years ago. I couldn't get past fifty pages. It was poorly written. Simple. That's not because I require In Search of Lost Time. I love the Frog and Toad books and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I read lots of YA literature. But the books weren't for me. They didn't compel me. If you don't compel me, I'm gone. Do I care if people loved them? No. Would I associate with someone who thought they were amazing? No. When I meet the person I am always going to be with, that dynamic, brilliant, articulate, talented creature is not going to be trying to convince me that Harry Potter is a work of genius.
I was totally creeped out every time I saw some person on a dating site speaking in Harry Potter terms. I can't even replicate them here, but if you read the books, I am sure you know what I'm talking about. They'd say they were a member of such and such rather than such and such, and I'd think, damn, maybe you should grow up and be an adult and read an adult book? I'd see these people in their thirties, forties, who read these books a lot, as in re-read. They were security blankets, a trip back to a time when they didn't have to "adult"--not that I am someone who uses that word as a verb normally--and it was nostalgia. I don't believe in reading for nostalgia. That does not mean that I don't believe in reading books that take one back to a time in one's life, or for comfort, reassurance, to make one's self calm. But when I do that, I want to have new experiences as well, in my current life. I want perspective that matters in my here and now. I'm not Linus with a blue blankie. I'm Odysseus. You know what I mean. I may be going back, but I am also striding forward.
All of this manufactured outrage right now on who is a good person and who is not. All great people--the very best--do bad things, or have done. If you are too ignorant to realize this, you need to start there--working on becoming smarter. Because your ignorance is the problem. And some people are not very good at all in their personal lives but attain a kind of goodness in their work, what they create. And yes, I do think that counts. I think it counts more. What Dickens did for people with A Christmas Carol was an act of pure giving and kindness that matters to lives, it was a decency beyond a decency that someone without his gifts is capable of. Was he a bad guy a lot? Yes. But he was also a great person in his work--that has the larger impact on more lives. In the end, I am going to care about that more with Dickens, with Beethoven, with John Lennon. But there is, for example, no maker of art in the history of the world who has not done things that the manufactured-outrage crowd could object to. If that is the criteria, then all museums must be closed, music must never be played again. Tell me your favorite musician. Filmmaker. Painter. And I'll give you the reason the mob would come for them. But the same thing goes for your mom and dad, your siblings, your best friend. With some of the things they've done, or the thoughts they've had. The thoughts they'll have today.
I don't like J.K. Rowling as a person because I think she's lazy. She's written so little. She never tried to grow as a writer. I think she's arrogant because she's so insecure. I think she knows how limited she is as a writer. When I learned that she made a billion dollars, what that told me is there is no way I couldn't make that when I get past these people. Because I don't believe she could do something as a writer that I could not, and I don't think anyone who knows me or my work should think it either. She picked the "J.K." bit because that sounded more like a man's name, or, at the least, that people would assume she was a man. She had a male pen name. I remember when she released a book under a pen name and it didn't sell, she popped forward to say, "Wait! It's by me, J.K. Rowling!" and then it did sell. For that one reason. Not because anyone liked it. Not because it was any good.
I also don't see the reason telling people what they are not. Let's say I believed that there were only two genders. Let's say I passionately believed it. So? What would be the point in me getting on Twitter and saying this? If I thought change was paramount--that the world needed to accept this--why would I think that saying these remarks would change anything? Don't get me wrong--I am constantly saying things in this journal that I believe will be a part of not just change, but a revolution. In publishing--in taking down this rancid, corrupt, bigoted, toxic, hateful, anti-art, anti-reading, anti-human system--and in the world. I don't say things idly. Everything is weighed. There is a point to everything. If you hold this belief that Rowling, I'm assuming--again, I didn't read through her Tweets, nor the piece she wrote in following--does, it's also a belief that really doesn't matter. Whether you're right or wrong. People are doing something in their lives that they think--and we can have all forms of motivation--is right for them. If they are smart, dynamic, articulate, make me think, work hard, contribute, live a life of growth, that's all that matters to me. Usually people do none of that. And usually I'm not going to be able to stand those people. The "those people" being the non-growers.
What troubles me more than comments that someone feels they need to make--and maybe she's miserable and lonely and depressed, and she wanted to be a different kind of artist and writer and all she could do was this silly wizard series, and a billion dollars didn't make her happy, because there is still the problem of one's internal life--is the hate groups that form so readily now. People are so desirous of hate, that they'll denounce what gave them pleasure for years and was a large part of their life. Maybe just separate the two? Maybe say, I like these books, but this person, I feel like they say stupid stuff, but they're not some demon, they're not molesting kids, they're not on a murder spree. They hold an opinion. I also saw all of these former Potter diehards talking about all of the racism in those books. It's like, you didn't see it three weeks ago! My point is that nothing is real. Human sickness and rage is real. Mental illness is real. Self-loathing is real. Being triggered time and time and time again by shit that just does not matter, is real. That's on you. That's an unwellness in you, that you need to figure out. To remedy.
I saw this Facebook group that was trying to make an older man destitute. This Facebook group was assembled to end lives. To make it impossible for people to support themselves. They tried to hunt up info on people. When someone said something they didn't like, they would post things on their wall or whatever saying they were gathering information, they'd never be able to buy food again, etc. They tried to get people fired. For opposing beliefs. Now, when someone says opposing beliefs, the knee-jerk reaction is that those "beliefs" are an espousal of white supremacy. But they are not. They are opposing beliefs. One such belief would be that not all cops are awful. Another, that white privilege is a myth, fueled by people laden with guilt who have no purpose in life (as in, have no direction, do not work towards an end, are not focused on how to excel in a journey with various, valuable points to reach) and who hate themselves. You can't see why someone might hold those opinions? That being different than agreeing with those opinions. You can't see how someone could think those things and not be a demon you need to destroy? You can't see how you thinking you need to destroy them makes you the demon?
Boston.com ran a story saying that this retired old man was going around Watertown cleaning up graffiti, with a wet mop, by erasing the word "Black" from "Black Lives Matter." This is how the media manipulates you. Firstly, if some old dude wants to say that lives matter, fine, go for it. You can't vandalize graffiti. He's from a more decent time, and for all I know, he raised two black kids as a foster parent and he sees no color and he's trying to deliver a simple message that we need to be good to each other. He's not on "the" Twitter, he was a guy who kept his word, made deals with a handshake. I have no idea. He's totally benign, as far as I'm concerned. And it's kind of sweet that this guy is doing something like this that seems to come from a place of kindness. Look, maybe his wife is dead and he's lonely and he used to be a passionate advocate for things and now he's limited in what he can do, what he can eat, where he can go, and his kids don't come by, and he has a lot of medications to take, and he felt good about himself by getting out like this, quietly, trying to do a decent deed. Maybe he needed that.
But boston.com knows that you can wreck someone by saying that they believe or wrote that lives matter. The "all" is implied. You know what else this man did? I found this out elsewhere. I saw photos of it. It's not hard to find out the actual truth, if you want to. He erased graffiti about killing cops, advocating for the murder of police officers. Some incredibly violent things. That's mostly what he did. And he erased the swears. You want that on the streets of your community? You need your seven-year-old reading that when he rides his bike? Because I think that's pretty twisted. But boston.com didn't want you to know that. They want to make this man a pariah. The media mostly lies to you. Says the guy who has worked for everyone. It lies less to you in an opinion piece, or a culture piece (though most book reviews are straight-up puff piece propaganda for the people of the system, and later I'll tell you about a time I wrote a review for the Globe of a very famous writer I think is quite bad at writing, and the Globe told me that they had a rule that reviews of this individual's books had to be positive), but there is very little unbiased reporting of the news as something happened. It all goes through a filter to make it appear a way that that particular venue wishes you to think. They are not leaving it up to you, by presenting you with a full story. They are controlling you. Or trying to.
They are also desperate for clicks, on account that fewer and fewer people read, because for years, there has been so little worth reading. That's a fallout of the publishing industry's insistence on corruption, shitty writing, cronyism, discrimination. They've done it to themselves, but they blame you, with your alleged short attention span. But it's not on you. (And though I am not able, at present, to just laugh everything off and smile sweetly at the 407th photo of the week some relative of mine has posted of their kid with some out-of-touch, cliched tripe about how they are raising their "Little" to know that love is all you need, I think people are a hell of a lot smarter on balance than the publishing industry usually thinks; I think people know what's what, more often than not, when you present it to them; what they're not going to do is seek things out on their own; but put it in front of their face? Yeah, they're going to know what shitty writing is, for example. Just like they'll know what great writing is.) It's them. For the clicks, they think they know what to do--they lie, they pander, they sensationalize, and they give less than a rat's ass for what is actually true. They care about the click. They were too simple-minded to realize that if you published good work in a compelling way from talented people, you were going to have all of the clicks you wanted, and a completely different reputation and role in our culture.
But back to the Facebook group. They decided they wanted to make this old man--I believe he was in his eighties--destitute. They wanted to make it harder, or impossible, for him to live. Their problem--look at this level of sickness--was that he was retired, so they couldn't contact an employer to try and get him fired. This is what people do with their lives, with their days. Once I said to someone that I felt bad for them, in a way, and this person remarked that that was stupid, did I think they'd ever have a concern for me or my health, or well-being? He had a point, but I still feel bad for someone like this, I guess. The place of pain you must be coming from. You must be overwhelmed by a pain inside of you, and fear, and emptiness, to behave this way. I had to stop looking. When last I saw it, dozens of people were brainstorming ways to hurt this man. But they all had the right filters on their profile pictures, they all repeated the same phrases of the social justice echo chamber.