Reflections on an anniversary


It was one year ago today that I wrote a note that ultimately led to my withdrawing from any active interaction within the online TG 'community'. I wrote - privately - in what I still believe was a reasonably civil way against intolerance and unfair prejudgment (prejudice) that had ruined for me a story I had wanted to enjoy. A writer had repeatedly attacked Christians - that includes people she had never met, like me - in her story, and justified her attacks by misrepresenting key beliefs. I wrote to her and suggested her story would be better if she left out that bias because I felt it undermined her attempt to show a loving and sensitive protagonist. I recommended that she show flawed individuals, but not claim that those who perverted a particular philosophy were representative *of* that philosophy, in this case Christianity. To do so was the same sort of prejudice which had so often victimized us. At no point did I suggest her story should be censored. Instead, I affirmed her right to write what she wanted. I just hoped to convince her that her story could be improved.

After that, she wrote a note to the TGF list declaring that she was pulling her incomplete story from where it was being archived, and that she would never write again (both later rescinded). That announcement set off a firestorm of personal attacks. Without knowing the particulars of the situation, based only on the announcement that someone had complained about prejudice in her story, members of the list - including some very respected contributors - could determine that *I* was 'nasty' and 'truly criminal', that I was a 'sad case' who 'wished [her] ill', that 'such trash' as I am were guilty of 'petty ignorance' and 'known not to be able to listen', that it was a good bet that I had 'never submitted a story of [my] own to a public forum.' All for daring to write, in private, against a particular variety of intolerance.

The conclusions were drawn without feeling it was significant to know who had written to the other writer - which is in fact the truth. If someone would draw a different conclusion based on *who* had raised the issue, then they are lost in the ad hominem argument - a fallacy that destroys the potential for reasonable discussion. It doesn't matter if I personally am as dumb as a brick or as wise as Athena. It doesn't matter if I am as full of compassion as Christ or a full of hatred as Hitler. What matters is whether the points have merit, not who is making them. Yet the conclusions were also drawn without knowing a word of what I had actually said, and of course without considering even the possibility that the person who had complained might have been justified.

If someone could find in my stories or in my private notes the bigotry of which I was accused, I'd surely like to know about it. And I'd fix it. However, the body of my work or my specific statements in this case meant nothing when people in this community were judging my character. No one in 'the community' could possibly have been hateful or unfair - and anyone who complained just had to be a bigoted outsider. 'Tolerance' is actively joining in the *right* kind of intolerance, sharing the *right* kind of hatred. What more did one need to know?

Those who defended me were typically no better. Counter-attacking the character of those who attacked me does not address the *issues*, either. You're not wrong 'because you're stupid' ('criminal', 'nasty', 'close-minded' . . .), but because your statements seemed inconsistent or factually incorrect, or 'unfair'. You're not right 'because you say so' ('because you claim special qualifications/insight/wisdom'), but because you can convince someone that there is a better answer. We may disagree but it should be based on the issues, not because of an assumption of character flaws in anyone who would dare to criticize.

Do we even disagree? Do we think that overt prejudice is something that must be praised in this community or is it acceptable to privately counel against it? That is a general question, which is the real point. I still believe it shouldn't matter what group is attacked. The faults in individuals you have met do not justify attacking others you have never met just because they happen to have some overlapping characteristics in race, or sexual orientation - or faith - with those flawed individuals.

I could refute the specific attacks on my faith with examples of the love that truly defines Christianity despite the real hypocrisy of some who claim to be Christian. But that needs to be done in private. Preaching on theology (which includes attacks *against* someone else's faith) or politics does not help this community. They are not what define us, and divide us rather than uniting us.

The results of all that controversy were not what I had expected, of course. My never-seen comments are used as an example of how viciously people in this community are 'attacked' by 'outsiders'. The legend has formed. I have done more harm than good to my most heartfelt dreams and philosophy by participating in this community. I decided to withdraw from any active interaction, leaving my stories as my only voice. Hopefully, people would find in my stories themes of love and acceptance, told in an interesting way. Hopefully people would NOT be able to find blanket judgments of people with other faiths, or other races, or other political persuasions. Let that be my refutation to those who think I am personally so nasty and criminal.

So, why do I write publicly after so long? It may be true that time heals all wounds, but I'm clearly still hurting from the attacks of those I thought were friends. Still, I've always felt that those who are willing to embrace and cherish both sides of gender have something wonderful to share. Despite all that has happened, after a year I'd like to try and share in it again, too; enough that I'm willing to present my thoughts and see what results. Perhaps after all this time the issues of ad hominem attacks and whether some flavors of intolerance are 'right' can be considered with less emotion and more civility. I'm posting this note because I have decided - no doubt flattering myself that anyone cares - to take a step back from my self-imposed isolation. I have always felt impolite if I do not respond to notes sent to me and I am willing to respond again. And though I have been declining all requests to archive my stories elsewhere, I am now willing to have them posted to other sites. Please contact me first to let me know that you are interested and to work out the details of providing a usable format. That includes the newer stories currently available only at my site.

I do have one special request. Please do not post any further notes to any of the lists or boards as a response to this message. If you have something to say to me, then write to me personally. If you feel something I have said should affect the group as a whole, then *demonstrate* what you believe should be done, don't just talk about it. Don't start yet another round of bitter personal attacks and counter-attacks. They serve no useful purpose, and I would rather not be the cause of even more acrimony. I have caused enough and more than enough.