A Liberal Speaks: Why Should I Care If You’re Offended If You Offend Me?


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Dear Matt Walsh,

I have to admit, I don’t really know who you are. You are one among many angry voices of Christian conservatism nowadays, and as I’m not a Christian conservative, I don’t tend to keep track of you all. Your message is pretty much the same: hate, hate, and more hate for everyone who doesn’t believe what you believe, or act how you want them to act, or live how you want them to live. I’m not sure how that encourages people to support your movement or your religion, but hey, other groups have recruited by uniting people in hatred, so why not you?

I did want to bring up a Facebook post of yours that came to my attention. Apparently, you were offended the other evening by an episode of the TV show “Scandal.” You write that “many people have informed me that last night the show depicted a woman having an abortion.” Then you go on to describe how the main character has the procedure while “Silent Night” is playing in the background. Then later she has a glass of wine by her Christmas tree and looks “satisfied and content.” It would strengthen your argument a lot if you’d actually gone to the trouble of watching the episode yourself. “Many people” may not have accurately described to you the moment in question. I’m not a regular watcher of “Scandal,” but I did happen to catch this episode, and if you gave me the names of your sources I think we could have a productive discussion about what really happened during that scene. I, for example, don’t think she was looking satisfied or content in the slightest.  But this blog post isn’t really about analyzing a TV moment, so never mind.

What I wanted to talk about was your offense over the moment–your feeling that (as you write) “THIS IS OPEN ADVOCACY OF CHILD MURDER ON A MAJOR NETWORK” and (perhaps) your outrage that a beloved Christmas carol is playing in the background as the abortion is taking place. Believe it or not, I can see how such a scene would be profoundly offensive to you. You believe that abortion is child murder. I don’t, but I support your right to that belief. You’re offended not only by seeing an abortion being performed on TV, but also by hearing a song from your own Christian canon linked to an offensive image. You may even believe that the scene was an implicit attack on you. (I don’t believe it was intended that way, but I will admit it’s open to debate, and whether or not the intent was to offend doesn’t make a difference, anyway. But never mind that either.)

So right now, I’m empathizing with your position. You, Matt Walsh, represent a religion that finds abortion offensive–an abomination, in fact–and a popular TV show has just dramatized an abortion scene with a Christian soundtrack. Yes, that seems pretty offensive.

Here’s the problem, though: for decades upon decades in this country, the Christian conservative movement has been saying and doing things that are personally offensive to me, my family, my friends, and the beliefs that I hold dear. I happen to be a liberal. You are the folks who have helped make “liberal” into a dirty word. You fling the most bilious, contempt-filled, rage-inducing language my direction every day, and you don’t even know who I am. You probably didn’t guess that I might see your point about the “Scandal” scene, did you? And yet you wrote me off long ago and attack me continuously, I guess because you think I’m your enemy.

Did you ever bother to ask me if I consider you my enemy? No, I didn’t think so.

Now you might be ready to tell me, “You liberals started this!” You might be ready to ask, “Where’s your proof?” I’m not going to get into a debate about who started what. That’s the sort of thing that children do, not mature adults. But as far as proof goes, I don’t need to go anywhere outside of your own web site to find examples of that. In fact, Matt Walsh, I don’t even have to read the content of your posts to be offended by your statements. Your headlines are plenty offensive: “With The ‘Transgender’ Movement, Liberalism Has Finally Descended Into Total Madness”; “If You Don’t Want Your Kids to Be ‘Assaulted’ by the Cops, Teach Them to Respect Authority”; “Planned Parenthood Murders Children — None of Their Other ‘Services’ Matter”; “Democrats Are Godless Heathen Tyrant Maniacs Because That’s What Voters Want”; “#ShoutYourAbortion Proves That Modern Liberalism Is A Satanic Death Cult.”

I could go on, but my hand is already aching from copy-and-paste strain. Also, I’m pretty sure you don’t care that you’ve offended me. You think I’m a despicable minority, that America is on your side and my voice doesn’t matter. But I think that the response to your own call for a boycott ought to be enough to disprove that belief.

So far I haven’t seen a big groundswell for boycotting “Scandal.” You want to know why I think that is? I think you inadvertently hit the nail on the head in your own remarks. In your Facebook post, you speak of the “humongous media corporations” like ABC, which airs “Scandal,”  and you claim that you and your fellow Christian conservatives make up the main demographic group that keeps these corporations afloat. “If we didn’t support them, they wouldn’t exist,” you say. Really? Because from what I’m seeing, you’ve only gotten the attention of entertainment journalists who like to comment on people’s reactions to TV shows. Hell, you say yourself that you don’t even watch “Scandal.” Should ABC think that other people like you are watching? Of course not! You can’t boycott a show you don’t even watch, so why should ABC listen to your grievances? 

ABC’s in business to make money. You, Matt Walsh, don’t matter to ABC’s bottom line. Christian conservatives do NOT support corporations like ABC.

Do you know what that makes you, Matt Walsh, and your fellow Christian conservatives?

It makes you a minority.

You may be a vocal minority. You may even be an entertaining minority to a cynical political or entertainment reporter or two. But you’re a minority all the same.

And do you know what minorities need to affect change in America?

Allies. Particularly political allies who believe in the rights of minorities in this country.

Sadly, I think your chances of making allies out of us liberals are slim to none. I think you gave up that possibility 35 years ago when you decided to fling mud at us 24/7. You have nothing of value to offer me or any other liberal. So why should I care that you find one scene in one episode of a fictional TV show offensive? No laws have been broken. I wasn’t offended. So I ask you again: why should I care if you’re offended?

I’ll say that I do have some Christian conservative friends. I care about what they think and feel, because they care about what I think and feel. We are human beings to each other.

I am nothing to you, Matt Walsh, and so you are nothing to me.


A Trick of the Light

Went for a walk this evening. I stepped out onto my porch and saw this on a house across the street:

photo 1


I took a picture and kept walking. Then I found more of these little reflections.

photo 2

They appeared on walls on both sides of the road.

photo 3

photo 5

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for twelve years. That’s the longest I’ve lived in one place since my family split up and finally went their separate ways. Twelve years of walks around the block, and I’ve never seen these lovely little lights before.

photo 4

I’m not sure how I missed them.

Shakespeare Is Everywhere: Batshit-Crazy–and Look, There’s Even a Bat in this Passage!–Joycean Edition

Don’t ask me what Joyce was thinking when he wrote this. I have no idea.

A side eye at my Hamlet hat. If I were suddenly naked here as I sit? I am not. Across the sands of all the world, followed by the sun’s flaming sword, to the west, trekking to evening lands. She trudges, schlepps, trains, drags, trascines her load. A tide westering, moondrawn, in her wake. Tides, myriadislanded, within her, blood not mine, oinopa ponton, a winedark sea. Behold the handmaid of the moon. In sleep the wet sign calls her hour, bids her rise. Bridebed, childbed, bed of death, ghostcandled. Omnis caro ad te veniet. He comes, pale vampire, through storm his eyes, his bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.

–James Joyce, Ulysses

Miss Fickle Critic: On Goodreads and in Hippocampus Magazine

Hey, Fickle Readers! It’s time for some blatant self-promotion! Those of you not among my personal cadre (and therefore not privy to my various lunatic rantings and blatherings) may not realize that I’m not only a creative writer, I’m also (surprise!) a budding book critic. I’ve just signed up for another year of reviewing at Hippocampus Magazine, an excellent all-creative nonfiction online journal. I’m also determined to write up more of my glorious opinions on Goodreads, because I really really want to keep getting free books to review. Really.

So here’s the latest on my fickle reading adventures:

One book you should definitely read, especially if you’re into creative nonfiction of the most intense, transformative kind, is Cynthia Barnett’s Rain: A Natural and Cultural History.

This is what the cover looks like. Go read this book immediately.

This is a book that steals into your life with a simple premise that, you soon realize, has gigantic, perspective-changing implications. Also, the title was long-listed for the National Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. Tragically, it didn’t move on in the process, even though I wish it had. (Admittedly, the field was probably more competitive than usual this year. Hard to beat Ta-Nehisi Coates.)

Despite the awards game, though, this is book is worth every minute you spend with it. Go forth and read.

I wish I could say the same for Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time. Vintage Books has commissioned a whole bunch of high-profile authors to write novel adaptations of Shakespeare plays (it’s called the Hogarth Shakespeare Initiative, in case you’re interested). When I heard about the project, I was so thoroughly excited I signed right up to get an actual physical review copy of the book and I GOT ONE, sent to my actual real-life address. I felt so validated I just sat around appreciating the cover for a while.

And, yeah, it’s a pretty cool cover.

Much to my dismay, the book itself isn’t all that great. Granted, you may have to take my opinion with a grain of salt, since I have sunk a lot of time and energy into studying The Winter’s Tale, on which Winterson based her novel. And granted, it would probably give someone with little to no familiarity with the play a pretty solid introduction to the original. The problem is, if that uninitiated person ever got to read or see The Winter’s Tale, he or she would probably be ready to set the bear on Leontes right from the beginning. Because Winterson’s Leo is just that awful. He’s vicious, self-centered, and whiny and deserves none of Shakespeare’s (or anyone’s) much-vaunted forgiveness, which the original play is also known for. If you’re curious, I’d say get this book out of the library. Otherwise, wait for Margaret Atwood to write her adaptation of The Tempest.


Thank You, Mike Thomas –and, Once Again, Godspeed Jan Hooks

Howdy, Fickle Readers!

Unfortunately (or, as Little Fickle would say, unfortunarily), I don’t have time to give this piece the thorough analysis it deserves. But I did want to let everyone who’s been following my modest Jan Hooks coverage know that Mike Thomas, the journalist who published a biography of Phil Hartman in 2014, has just published a lovely retrospective article in Grantland on Hooks’s life and death. In the piece, he fully discloses the details of Hooks’s struggles with anxiety, isolation, and illness, as well as her rocky relationship with her own fame and talent. It’s an eye-opening piece. In this day and age, when fame is one of the be-all, end-all life goals for many, when someone invented not only the selfie but the selfie stick (hopefully someday God will forgive us for that monstrosity), Hooks seemed to be searching for a middle ground–one that would let her be herself and pursue her creative interests without having to get entangled with the demanding, draining constraints that showbiz puts on its actors. I’m not sure that she ever found it, but she did seem to find some peace being able to control the work that she took on and (maybe) being able to be herself when no one was all that interested in her quirky take on life.

I don’t know. I’m trying to glean a positive spin on her largely sad ending. Thomas works very hard to show that Hooks lived and died on her own terms. Many in modern Western society might deem those terms tragic–an early death in a remote location, far from the eyes of critics and fans alike–but Thomas insists that she made all her own decisions, and one of those decisions was that the limelight wasn’t for her. One wonders if the reason why she disliked the entertainment world so much was because there was no place for an original voice like hers.

I hope that Thomas or others will continue the discussion on Hooks. I hope this article means that there may be a new biography coming out. Hooks deserves her own space, despite the fact that she decided to abandon the very thing that placed her in the public eye. In an age when Julia Roberts is the gold standard for the ambitious actress, it behooves us to examine what fame means to women who are not the ideal and, moreover, don’t want to be.

Dreaming of Cars: Driving from the Backseat

Last night, I dreamed I was driving to a friend’s house. The roads were hard to navigate and hard to see. When I was about to make a turn, I realized I was in the back seat. So I pulled over–I’d wound up in this situation before–and carefully climbed into the front. Only after that did I discover I’d already reached my destination.