Let me start by saying this: To anybody who’s ever read a single word I’ve written, thank you. Even if you think I’m an idiot, a fool, and “a mere shadow of my brother,” I’ll still say thank you. Over the last five years, I’ve written nearly half a million words that have found their way into publication, and if weren’t for the people who both love and hate what I have to say, none of that would have been possible.
As such, I have an obligation to you. But it might not be what you think it is.
I don’t have an obligation to agree with you. I’m not required to make you feel safe or comfortable when you read what I have to say. I’m not obligated to play to all audiences at all times, or to stay safely in the middle of topics. I’m not an investigative journalist—it’s not my job to give you just the facts, ma’am.
No, I have only one obligation: to be interesting. Being interesting means having opinions. It means saying what nobody else is willing to say. It means saying things that maybe nobody else is even willing to think. It means offending you. It means making you feel something.
If you read an opinion or editorial, and you walk away from it feeling exactly the same about life as you did before you read it, then the writer has failed. An editorial should create dialogue. It should make the reader take a personal inventory of his belief system, and decide what should stay and what should go.
Unfortunately, there’s a belief among some that everything they read should fail neatly inside their comfort zones. In the opinions of these people, not only should they not have to read something they don’t like, it shouldn’t even be allowed to be published. The reader thinks to himself, “On a website with literally 50,000+ posts, this one post hath offended me—send it down the memory hole! Let it be no more!”
I reject that notion. I reject the sense that we have the right to oppress the thoughts and words of others. We certainly have the right to stop reading that author or that publication—voting with our feet and our dollars used to be the American way. But now we feel that the American way is to threaten and protest against anything that challenges our preconceived notions. We no longer feel satisfied with simply taking our business elsewhere—we have to erase any chance that somebody somewhere might be offended. We have to force the deletion of the offending words, or action, or even the individual or business. We no longer seek to understand, we only seek to be understood.
There’s a problem with this—eventually, we’ll get our way. There won’t even be a need for editorials, because we’ll all be forced to share the same opinion. You’ll have the safety of knowing that when you click on a link that all of the words inside will reinforce your safe, cozy worldview.
I’m tired of this type of discourse. I’m tired of feelings mattering more than facts. If I write something you don’t like, then write your counter-opinion. Tell me why I’m wrong. If you want me to understand where you’re coming from, then try to understand where I’m coming from first.
If you refuse to do this, then I can no longer fulfill my obligation to you. I can’t be interesting. I can only be safe. So ask yourself: is that really the kind of world you want? My fear is that when you ask yourself that question, that your answer just might be yes.