Something I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone:
Sometimes my choice of words is dependent upon the day.
A few days ago I wrote about Harvard’s unconscionable policy of admitting applicants based upon legacy and parental donations, when a great number of those students would not have otherwise been admitted to the university. I suggested that we consider this policy when assessing the accomplishments of a Harvard grad and mentally discount their achievement based upon this system of graft and preferential treatment existing at the school.
I went on to say that you should probably discount my own accomplishments, too, given that I hit the genetic lottery by being born as a white, straight, relatively intelligent, healthy American man.
Take away any one of those things, and my life is much more challenging.
I had all the advantages a person could ever want. My status has allowed me to avoid discrimination, sexism. and the struggles associated with longterm illness and addiction. And I was born in America. There are many, many places on this planet where I could not have pursued my drams like I have in this country.
Then I wrote this sentence:
In fact, if you’re a white straight man living in America who is relatively intelligent, healthy, and not battling addiction and you can’t find a way to earn a living in this world, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Then I deleted the sentence. I deleted it because I recognized its possible incendiary quality. I could easily envision someone reading this and taking great offense. Either they matched the characteristics that I listed and were still struggling to earn a living, or they had had a child - all grown up - who matched the characteristics and was still living at home, unable to find work.
I pictured struggling writers and painters and pie-in-the-sky entrepreneurs whose lifelong dreams were not panning out. I pictured a mother who was still supporting her son as he tried to carve a spot in the cutthroat world of competitive video game playing. I envisioned myself explaining to these painters and writers and entrepreneurs that chasing your dream is wonderful, but that most creative people either starve without complaint or get a job to feed themselves whilst they paint or sculpt or write or invent.
Telling straight, white American men that they are losers if they can’t earn a living could be provocative, and although I love to be provocative, I was writing that post on Saturday, the day that I was officiating the wedding of my former student.
I didn’t want to deal with a potentially angry online mob on that blessed, beautiful day, so I removed the sentence.
I’ve done this before - rarely - but the particular day ahead of me will sometimes dictate how far I will push an idea. I’ve also had days when I’ve itching for a fight or know that I will be home sick with lots of time on my hands, and on those days, I will push extra hard.
I try to poke the bear.
So as disingenuous as it may sound, I have been known to temper an argument for the sake of peace on a given day, and I’ve also been known to sharpen an argument on those days when I’m looking forward to some online confrontation.
I think of it as self care. I don’t betray my argument or idea, but I simply shape it based upon what I’m able and willing to deal with on any given day.
So if you’re upset with my assertions about white,. straight, healthy American men, today is the day to fire away. I’m home from work in honor of Indigenous People’s Day. Plenty of time to do battle if necessary.