When your choice of whom to vote for, or your views on the issues of the day, can bring down the wrath of activists not just via various social media, your own accounts and others, but outside your doorstep, or that of your day job, or even lose you your job, do you keep your views private or as private as you can, or do you not let yourself be intimidated and stressed by what others think?
Do authors’ identities a) matter and b) belong to the world?
These questions of censorship and self-censorship, and free speech, were recently discussed in 2 interesting essays by Jael McHenry on the website Writer Unboxed:
These issues, while more important in the Internet Age, have been part of life since the Reagan Years and centuries before then.
One question Jael asks is this: "as both consumers and makers of art, authors have to wonder: should I express myself fully, including my political views, on social media? Or does that mean losing readers?"
I have some thoughts on this I want to share...
Sometimes what you write and where you share it, not just of a political, or cultural nature, but anything of yours, from humor to reviews, or more, can bring someone out of their "Safe Space" long enough to raise a stink.
A few months ago I wrote a poem/song in support of a worthy cause the company I work for annually supports and posted it and an essay about the cause, on this blog.
I then shared a link to it on a work related social media site where, in retrospect, it might not have been prudent to do so.
I had also become a little active, over the summer, on work related social media sites frequented by fellow employees worldwide.
Long after posting this comment and link ONE person took offense at one single word appearing in my post on this site....a word central to my poem/song, by the way.
The resulting stink somehow led to my being questioned about my intent by a couple of supervisors at work and having to explain myself.
It became clear to me that the person who complained and, most likely those who later freaked out higher up the chain, probably did not bother to read the poem/song or even the blog post it was attached to.
I could barely get my supervisors to stop stressing long enough to let me explain myself properly and one barely could get himself to listen to the poem later...
The important thing was to get me to agree to not post anything more on this social media page.
Understanding the context in which the word was used was the last thing anyone was interested in.
The next morning it was still there.
I then went in and edited it in such a way as to remove the offending word AND the link to my poem/song.
Now, anyone who wanted to read it would have to work at finding it.
I did not delete my comment on this site because, for whatever reason, despite the apparent panic that led to my being questioned at work, whoever controls this social media account didn't delete my post themselves or was not ordered to do so by a higher-up.
Were they even aware of the comment I left and resulting kerfluffle?
Another thing I did, and it was something I had been already considering because I was discovering some disturbing trends on the employee associated social media sites, and things that bothered me about those who ran them, was to quit those sites entirely.
From 2002 thru Sept. 2007 I shared my thoughts on politics and culture, as well as writing about my other interests and my life on a blog then started over, with THIS blog, in Oct. 2007, minus the politics for the most part.
From 2003 to 2010 I had a bike blog where I raised more than a few hackles in the local and national cycling community with my opinions and journalism.
My original muse was a Maine Coon, Mr. Nikita.
His protege, Elvira Mistress of Felinity, and 2 other lady cats follow in his paw prints.
With a dedicated cat blog since Jan. 2010 I, through the personas of my felines, have raised a few howls and hisses there as well over the years.
I have always had little traffic on my blogs (mostly via Google searches) and only few regular, loyal, readers. If I had stressed out over traffic stats I would have quit a decade ago.
I am a former Reagan Democrat who became, for a while in the 90's, a Clintonista before coming to my senses and going full Conservative and Republican.
I have friends from various walks of life, differing politics, different races and ethnicities and an assortment of sexual proclivities and orientations and we agree to disagree on many things.
One of the reasons I moved from SoCal to Texas, 4+ years ago, was that I hoped and dreamed of taking my creativity in directions I'd never seriously considered before;
Earning an income via my writing and blogging, or book publishing (or, even as a friend once suggested, editing) even the notion of a real business related to my interest in cats (And my only business experience was in bookstore retail (1984- 2001, the last 11 of those years as a store manager).
A few years ago I googled my name and discovered that decades old essays and comments of mine in newspapers and magazines (one of my proudest moments!), Comic Book letters to the editor and more, from even the 70's, 80's , and 90's are out there to be re-discovered by the curious.
I am also a published Star Trek author, unpaid, with an essay in a volume of a once popular anthology series and been quoted in a book about living the car-free life.
I have been published in the newsletter of the writer's organization I belong to and done a few guest posts on blogs.
I have shared my thoughts on Facebook and Twitter for years, no doubt pissing more than a few, liberals, socialists, clueless snowflakes and even a fellow conservative or 2, off along the way.
As I wrote in a recent blog post...
My writing has affected many people in many different ways.
I believe I (and my feline muses, who have also attracted similar attention) am wielding a most unique pencil, unlike anything else out there, and the pencil I wield on Mad Macedonian is unique in its own way as well.
While I have struggled for 14+ years to find my place as a writer and build an audience, God knows where my creative journey will eventually lead me, even if I do not.
I will not let anyone, from the President on down, take away my pride in personal achievement, chain up my creativity and cause me to live in fear of expressing myself, my opinions and my ideas.
I can't spend my days wondering if someone I don't even know has the intent of causing me problems because of my writing, or because of something I shared someplace where I maybe should have known I needed to be more careful in how I expressed myself, or my job finds my creativity somehow problematic.
As someone who has performed at Open Mics and been invited to give presentations and hope to do so again, I can't be afraid of offending.
I can't stop someone from deciding to end my employment for whatever reason they see fit, even when I have done nothing wrong.
I've done a lot that I am proud of.
I hope to do more and trust that God is not finished with the Mad Macedonian, the Cycling Dude, or a motley crew of Opinionated Pussycats, despite how difficult my life and circumstances are.