Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Me as a Cretin Cheerleader circa 1961

I’ve never been an outspoken person.  Nor do I think of myself as one who shoots off his big mouth without first engaging his brain…well, maybe as a cheerleader at Cretin High School.  Yet there have been several instances when my words have come back to haunt me.  Verbal stumbles that somehow distracted offended or otherwise put some people off.

Hence the weekly challenge of blog writing while finding solid footing between truth and candor verses that murky field of quicksand linguistics.

My most recent stumble came after sharing my first novel ‘Love in the A Shau’ with a dear friend of mine.  It seems that her husband took offense with my writing.  I’m not sure if it was the profanity (timely and realistic for that period and setting; a college campus and Vietnam) or the few sex scenes (mild by today’s standards).  Never the less he was offended and didn’t want my friend to see me again.  Somehow my first novel had over-shadowed our friendship of over thirty years.  We still have lunch occasionally but are careful never mention her husband or my book.

Then there was a couple that took offense to what they perceived of as a series is missteps on my part.  Upon reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that they misunderstood my comments about some of our mutual acquaintances.  In the end, a lack of communication and feedback eroded our friendship even before it had a chance to solidify.

I once made ‘friends’ on Facebook with an old work associate from back in the eighties.  I wrote him a letter reminiscing about the ‘crazy boss’ we both worked for.  Surprisingly, it turned out his recollection of that mad man wasn’t the same as mine.  This old acquaintance took offense at my comments about Dr.  Jekyll and thus ended that ‘friend’ on Facebook before it ever got started.  I never heard from him again.  It never changed my opinion about our old boss but I was sorry I might have offended that fellow in the process.

Then there was an old friend from many lives ago.  The communication between us wasn’t the clearest or most concise but it was reconnecting never-the-less.  From scratches on her emails I could sense that she was probably religious.  That fact never flavored our conversations until one of my blogs entitled ‘rug munching’ was posted.

After that blog appeared on Facebook all communication ended and I couldn’t help but wonder if my declaration of love being love and not just reserved to one man and one woman might have offended her religious sensibilities.  I never found out.  She disappeared into that vast black hole called cyberspace.

In each and every instance of misunderstanding or offense taken I’ve come to ponder my own actions and wherein the fault might lie.  On a certain level I was certainly aware that my comments might have an effect on my recipients – positive or negative.  But as I told a friend once ‘they (my comments) were open and honest.’ My words certainly weren’t meant to hurt or offend.

Call it the law of invisible consequences.  That any and all actions or comments on our part can have an impact on others.  That being said I don’t think going mute is the answer.  My blogs, postings and reflections have all been from the heart.  They were never meant to challenge, question, criticize or compromise another person’s point of view. 

But across the board what I find interesting is the inability or unwillingness to address those issues the aforementioned folks have with me and my writings or comments.  Perhaps they’re feeling a bit of ‘Minnesota Nice’ although none of these folks in question reside in Minnesota.

There is a parcel of blogs that I’m working on now.  I’ve reviewed each and every one to see if any of them might offend someone somehow someplace.  Beats me. 

So do I dare be honest and make comments true to my heart or censor my writing because someone might find it offensive?  Do I try to be PC or just ‘tell it as I see it?’

In the end I really don’t have any choice.  I’ve got to stand in my truth.  I’ve created this bed of words and ideas and opinions and judgement calls.  So I’ll going to continue to expose myself in cyberspace and hope I’m not misunderstood.  Or face the reaction if I am. 

It’s still telling it like it is…at least from my point of view - which is the only one I have.

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