virus: If I were a salmon, it would be swell...(was: Re: Why swim

Zloduska (
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 01:36:46 -0500

I tried to stay out of the unsavory mess following the Virtual Virus Collision of Egos, but I'm going to toss in my two korunas anyway. I've been thinking a lot lately about the issue brought up a few weeks ago. I apologize beforehand if my thoughts are a bit scattered, belated, lengthy, and all over the map.

Tim wrote:

>At the end of the day, isn't it really the petty arguments, the verbal
>sparring, the rare chance to slam-dunk some stupid ignorant yokel, that
>keeps bringing us back for more? Shouldn't we all just admit that?

I can see the positive, and how this list has benefited me over the past year and a half. For example, I was really touched last month, when upon hearing that I was leaving, people responded on and off-list saying that I would be missed and complimenting me. And to think that these folks don't even *know* me in person, but it is still possible to build lasting friendships through a cold and impersonal medium like the Internet.

I'd like to think that you're wrong about this, at least for me. I sincerely am not trying to sound self-righteous, but I do not react and flame for "status" or because I hunger to be the victor of cyber-jousting battles of wit. True, the bickering is tiring, juvenille, and predictable. There comes a point when one gets plain SICK of generating the petty insults and clever comebacks, and just wants to be _understood_. I might feel immediate and temporary satisfaction when I've gotten in a good shot and look smart, but in the end it leaves one empty and ashamed. Any kind of violence leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, I am a "social ape" and I am sometimes too quick to engage in exchanges of insults, but I don't ever do it on this list for sport. I may be controlled by the 'animal nature' you describe, but my buttons are different. This isn't my playground for pushing others around, and I only bite when I've been injured first. I assure you Tim, I always speak and write from the heart. I'm no better than a bully when I stoop to name-calling like others, tho' my motivation is different. I have not risen ABOVE, but my path is more perpendicular

I admit that I am acutely hyper-sensitive when it comes to some issues that I feel passionately about. I also feel that I have reason to be, and don't need to justify getting upset or disturbed. When it comes to the topics of 'gender', racism, sexism, homophobia, abortion, and religion, I don't think it's purely a matter of opinion-- some things are simply *wrong*, and need to be discussed or corrected. Here's why. On the issue of homophobia, I want my fellow CoV'rs to know where I am coming from.

Necessary Background/Excessive Rant:

I graduated from high school only a couple years ago, although it seems much longer now. It took me SEVEN YEARS to neutralize the bigotry and ignorance of my fellow classmates and students, or at least make it tolerable. There wasn't a day that passed without me repeatedly hearing the word "faggot", "nigger", or "spic" fall from the lips of some backwards-thinking (yet all too common) hick. I lived in a town with a very high population density of rednecks. Those words are merely a blemish that hides the diseased and malignantly-grown mind of the person who utters them, and they still make me flinch to this day. Words used to describe my friends; words used to describe me. Words like currents of electricity that can rescue and enlighten when put to good use, or cause shock, trauma, and a great deal of pain when abused. They *are* only words, but they have the power to wound a person for life.

I think I can safely assume that most of us reading or participating on this list were not your "average" kids growing up. I'll bet that most of us were or are mercilessly teased, taunted, considered a geek, or just a plain old freak. Many of us are or were non-conformists in the traditional sense, that suffer(ed) criticism and attacks for this. We are a sundry bunch. I too was very "different" in my high school. Not different in that
sugar-coated-ersatz-cosmopoliton-MTV-generation-X-youthful-angst-"alternativ e"-corporate-try-hard-suburban-pseudogothic-outcast sort of way. No, in that "every day was a treachery to survive and I was completely ostracized" sort of way.

Early on I was a human doormat until that became unbearable. Eventually I was not able to contain my naturally outspoken, honest, and spirited personality. This gained me a few genuine friends, but I also drew a lot of heat and ridicule for simply being myself. I was resigned to being an iconoclast. I was an atheist when most of my 'peers' were Catholic. I had pictures defaming the Pope in my locker. I hated the music everyone else loved (country western/pop) and loved what nearly everyone hated. I was pro-gay when gay-bashing was cool. I was anti-military and protested Veteran's Day when everyone was absurdly patriotic. I wore quirky clothing and abhorred name-brands when Nike was all the rage. I challenged the teachers' instructions and rules. I craved for diversity and acceptance but all I got was nauseating blind conformism. I swam upstream until I had no bloody strength left. I had a great deal of hostility, and wasn't sure where to direct it. Writing was an outlet. I also discovered the escape of the Internet and encountered memetics during this time as well.

My point is, by the time my last year there finally arrived, I had effectively modified the behavior of my fellow students. And how did I manage calmly explaining that prejudice is wrong and unhealthy? No, I freaked out and struck out at whoever slipped up and spewed their vile slurs and stereotypical garbage within my hearing. It's like training a dog, really. If you refuse to tolerate intolerance itself, things will change. So eventually no one would dare say "fag" or "nigger" around me because they knew I was psychotically-sensitive about it and would fly into a rage. Being a maverick makes you unpopular but it can also gain you a certain amount of respect. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't try to fit in, and I'm glad I didn't ignore what I knew in my heart to be wrong and heinous beliefs, just to save myself from contempt.

Are you curious as to what kind of bullying I witnessed and was the victim of? Well, exactly the kind of "verbal sparring" that I can see on this list lately. The hicks with the lowest IQs would be resentful because I was more intelligent and would throw lots of big, insulting words that left them baffled and soundly thrashed their self-esteem and egos by pointing out what morons they were. In return, they would verbally, emotionally, and physically harass me every single day. The notorious bus ride was always a particularly unpleasant battle ground. It usually went something like this: me: "Neanderthal!" them: "Nasal breath!" me:"Simpleton!" them: "Penguin!" It does get tiresome. And when spectating, it was something like: "Dumbass!" "Fuckwad!" "Cocksucker!" "Nimrod!" Can you see the parallel? I've had a lifetime's worth of this banality, and I'd rather not witness it here.

And let's not forget the ever-popular "butt-buddies". Contrary to what some think, this word is a synonym for "faggot", as is "pansy", "faerie", "queer-bait", "pillow-biter", etc. I don't think most 'straight' people grasp how mentally traumatic it is to grow up being gay, or having your peers treat you as a homosexual. It's hard enough being constantly discriminated against as an adult gay person, and it's the abuse in these formative years that make a person introverted and socially-handicapped later on in life. I don't think people realize how painful it is to be treated like you are subhuman, a scar that you carry for the rest of your life. The same goes for children that are overweight, handicapped, retarded, nerdy, shy, poor, neglected, etc. The ripples of inhumanity these kids suffer last a lifetime. I remember a few of the odd, geeky classmates that were sometimes taunted with the words "fag" or "butt-buddies". Like that pitiful fat kid that never fought back, and tried to be invisible. A few of those I recall, actually. Like two best friends, Josh and Mike, who were a bit effeminate, and thought to be gay. They shared the term Brett used. Maybe I could laugh remembering that, if I hadn't recently found out that one those slightly odd boys that were labelled "butt buddies", Mike, had jumped off of a building to his death in another Wisconsin town. My age. And none of them stuck up for themselves in school. All of that negative jeering must have been directed inward.

I've seen *many* times when a gay person endures prejudice because it's easier than making a scene, and they are already taught by society that it is not OK to be openly gay. We only pretend that it is, which is a lie. Not realizing they are talking to a homosexual, a homophobe will casually say, "Look at that fag" or refer to them in a degrading way, while unaware of the hurtful impact their nonchalant remark has on that person. And their silence reinforces this self-depreciation. Can you imagine how I feel when I see this same offhand, offensive banter contaminating a "rational" haven like CoV?

[This following portion is directed to Brett himself]:

You may not have intended to imply that homosexuality is disgraceful, and you may not even be homophobic (although it seems that way), but the common use of that phrase is. You may not even be sexist, but your comments certainly are. See what I'm getting at? The "I didn't mean it" excuse won't fly here. That's like saying, "That black guy took it the wrong way when I called him a filthy nigger. [shrug]" Then there is the nature of your comment itself. "Are you and Joe butt-buddies?" If there were a book entitled "Top Five Hundred Lame Comebacks Bullies Use", under the 'Gay-Bashing' section this would be close to numero uno. I've never heard the term used in a friendly sense, but rather circumstances I can recall it being used in were in a way degrading to homosexuals. And so when I hear or read the endearing phrase "butt-buddies", other than the pain of my past that bubbles up to the surface, it conjures up two mental images: first, witnessing the constant harassment of some quiet but overweight boys, and secondly, the young corpse of a seriously confused yet harmless former classmate, who was always just a little bit "different".

I've been fighting like a warrior all my life just so I could be HEARD, and the battle to be taken seriously continues daily. Then there are days I read email where some twerp writes that when I do voice my opinion, it's inferior "female" drivel. You want me to stop ranting and raving? Oh yeah? Well I will-- as soon as I have the same rights and treatment as you. A day when I can walk down the street and eat an ice cream cone without being a harassment victim, or with total strangers making lewd remarks or touching my hair. A day when literally 99% of all my female companions/relatives haven't been sexually/physically abused or molested at some point in their lives before they reach adulthood. Every girl who attends public school in America could tell you that frequent sexual harassment from the opposite sex is the NORM, not the exception. It's an institution in itself, and change of behavior doesn't provide relief or escape since it's inevitable, ubitquitious, and enforced by authority figures as well as peers.

Wake up! You are a heterosexual white male American, and you live in Indiana, Brett. Realize your many privileges. It is socially acceptable and you are able to: walk alone at night, or anywhere without fear of being abducted or raped; decide what to do with your own body (unlike women, who have to fight to control their uterus against droves of male Republicans and the Christian Coalition, or gays who are 'bashed' for sodomy); in recent history, you were not denied basic human privileges like voting or attending college, nor were you considered nothing more than property, denied control over who you marry, personal finances, or overall direction in your life; on average get paid a higher salary, and are more likely to find a job or be promoted than a minority, foreigner, or a woman; be free of oppression of organized religion which condemns you from birth, but rather raised you to a godlike status; be undisturbed with being faced by your sexuality being exploited by the media and pop culture everywhere you turn; serve in the military (even women couldn't until relatively recently); get married, and receive benefits for your spouse; adopt a child; be a teacher or a Boy Scout leader without your abilities being questioned; etc., etc., not to mention the countries and cultures were even today female infants are murdered, put in orphanages where they die, or suffer genital mutilation. All the same cannot be said for myself or a homosexual. There's a dose of potent subjectivity for you. And here you are, whining like a child about how you feel violated because none of the other boys on the playground like you or want to frolic in the same sandbox.

I'm not condemning all men here, Brett. Just the ones that make comments like you. Just the ones that label me a "cum receptacle", and so on and so forth. In fact, the large majority of the men on this list (which is comprised of nearly all males to begin with) impress me as sharing a similar viewpoint on the topics of gender and sexual discrimination, and as respectful, enlightened gentlemen. Once again, considering that the average male list member here is not your "average" male in society, those that adhere to a Dark Ages Philosophy of misogyny are in the minority. I am by no means a man-hater, and I know that my numerous male friends can be as sensitive and as much a feminist as I am.

I have never attacked *you*, specifically. You could argue about your pet subjects until blue in the face, and I'll simply look the other way. You are entitled to an opinion, like everyone else on this list. And you can take up space, even if it doesn't interest me, like everyone else. I'm not for censorship, and there is no way every topic or thread could please everyone. Only when you have written something that I find personally insulting, offensive, or completely wrong have I responded. I think that everyone else but you has figured out by now which buttons not to push. Or perhaps they have the same buttons. But nevertheless, you keep on pushing those same buttons that raise my ire. And as long as you do, I'll keep proving the saying, "Hell hath no fury..."

Throwing insults back and forth gets boring quite fast. I've had enough of that in school to last me a lifetime. Once you take the trouble to forge a friendship with a former enemy, be it IRL or online, one realizes how incredibly stupid it is; all the time wasted in a battle of wits could have been spent getting to know each other better. Life is too short to devote precious leisure time to malicious postings. I'm really not flaming you to amuse myself, Brett, just correcting the 'error of your ways'. These topics are important to me, and although it is always unpleasant to deal with and debate, it hurts me even more to remain mute when I felt like I should have spoken up.

And so, to conclude, I've learned two important things through my life experiences in dealing with unpleasantness or offenses:

  1. Don't ignore the little things, no matter how slight, because they are a symptom, an indication, and a step ladder to greater injustices. Insults, prejudiced attitudes, and harassment are the precursors to more malicious evils that are difficult to remedy. You would probably call the police if you saw a woman being raped, but most people wouldn't consider it abnormal for a female to be catcalled or harassed on the street. One leads to the other. Disregarding one as "minor" only allows the "major" crime to exist. A lifetime of tolerating the slur of "fag" an "queer" leads to the death of people like Matthew Shepard, and numerous others.
  2. Speak out. Always. You can't change anything unless you do. Do you think that in high school the teachers, who are supposed to be responsible for controlling the classroom environment, ever reprimanded those hicks for their behavior and verbal bullying? Hell no, very rarely. In many ways the Church of Virus is a public forum as much as a classroom is. Teachers shouldn't have to police their students, just as David M. isn't responsible for scolding and babysitting list members. However, children need direction and discipline, whereas the contributors to this list should be socially adept and sophisticated enough to handle email communication without trouble. This is clearly not the case. That is the problem. Some cannot communicate well, and the more others tell them so, the further they shove their fingers in their ears and sing "la la la". The best thing is to voice your opinion when you feel slighted.

>One of the things I'm really good at is arguing. (Which will come as no
>surprise to many of you, I'm sure.) I have a flare for it and I often just
>enjoy a good argument for its own sake, regardless of the outcome one way or
>the other.

No, Tim, I think that like all great teachers I've had in the past, you are really good at pointing out another way of looking at things or getting someone to view an issue from another, more unpopular perspective. Your title of "Professor" was questioned before, and I object. Although you are less of a mentor and more of a comrade, you've taught me many valuable things since I've joined the list, such as how to wear my pants Dresden style, or start a small cult. (Praise Squid) You ask what the use is of swimming against the current, but I recall relying on you to always do so. YOU tell us what the value of struggling upstream is.

>It's a struggle. I spend more time rewriting than writing lately. I've
>deleted more of my posts than I've sent and I still can't seem to pull it
>off. I watch helplessly as the few conversations I do engage in here
>degrade into petty infighting before my very eyes.

Same for me. I've been gathering lots of (thankfully) unsent, unfinished posts. But I still had the urge to reply in this haphazard fashion.

>And maybe that's just the way it's always been. So I suppose I shouldn't be
>too surprised if, at the end of my day, it's really those petty arguments
>and the verbal sparring and that rare chance to slam-dunk some ignorant
>moron for his cherished, but oh-so-foolhardy, ideas that keeps bringing me
>back here for more and more of the same.

...Or perhaps you're waiting for that occasional reward that comes. Do I really need to point those out more clearly? Think about it. You admit to being cynical here, but what your comments amount to is saying, "You draw more flies with vinegar than with honey."

Would you mind if I put you and someone else in the spotlight for a moment? Let's take for example, you, myself, and Richard Brodie. Now, early on we became fast friends, and went together like peanut butter and jelly. Why is that? I think it was more than simple fanaticism over the same group of musicians, but our similar tastes, the same personality type (according to that goofy on-line indicator), a shared warped sense of humor, and other characteristics. Now look at the relationship between Richard Brodie and I. I'm sure you remember that when I first became acquainted with him, we had a terrible spat and I loathed him. But after all that nonsense, and despite our differences, I got to know him better and can say that he's a truly wonderful guy. Even if we had strong initial personality clashes and conflicts. The exact same circumstances with others on this list and elsewhere-- those that began as animosity and hatred, moved beyond that and became friendship when I made the effort. I thought the same technique would work with Brett, but unfortunately it backfired. I best leave well enough alone, as they say.

Here's a ridiculous Fruit Tree analogy. I am a fruity piece of fruit hanging on a enormous tree in an orchard. A blossoming mango, if you will. Prof. Tim is an oddball tomato occupying the same branch, but we're both round and green at this point. Although Tim is in close proximity and quite similar, I still don't have trouble reaching out to another that's very different from myself but worthwhile, such as a ripening peach like Richard, Eric Boyd the apple, or The Hermit, an imported papaya. Granted, this is a peculiar tree bearing strange fruit, but it's somehow come into creation thanks to a farmer named David.

Brett is a lovely bouquet of broccoli. I tried to reconcile myself with this conspicuous and ornery vegetable since it's my neighbor, but it just didn't work out. There's no use pretending that the broccoli spears are a fruit like everyone else; it's so obvious and aloof. But I feel pity for the socially-challenged roughage because most of my fruity companions are keenly aware of his presence, and some are resentful and won't let him play in any of the reindeer games. So I avert my gaze to a juicy cantaloupe and share my home. I only get irked off and all shook up when the broccoli gets uppity and thinks that since it's all alone it must be special, declares that fruit are inferior.

My point (I think I had one before I got carried away) is that it's a miracle that we're all growing on the same tree, which just wouldn't be the same without any one of us. We all have a distinct flavor and appearance, which should be *appreciated*. It would be a shame if the majority of us happened to turn sour and then rotten. That's why it's important to keep self-preservation in mind. I hope that isn't going too far.

So what about a solution to the problem you pointed out? First of all, I think tolerance is key. Good old-fashioned tolerance, yes indeed. What do I care if someone else doesn't believe in subjectivity, and I do, or if they point to something and say "red" when I say it's "blue"? Different opinions don't hurt me, and these issues can be discussed and even argued calmly, as long as it doesn't degenerate into personal warfare. Getting wrapped up in that is like debating the existence of a higher spiritual being with a religious person. A redundant and irritating quagmire. It's okay for everyone to believe in a different God or none at all; I can accept that. However, as soon as someone tries to *force* their opinion on me or belittle my own (much like a Christian who would condemn me as a sinner and act condescending) I get angry.

More specificaly, I think Brett has just as much right to his say and opinion as anyone else here, even if most of us usually disagree or can't understand it at all. What harm is there in considering or dismissing his particular brand of "word salad"? I won't deny we are completely different creatures on two separate wave-lengths. Brett has such a "different" sense of humor, that it appears non-existent. I'm not saying he has none at all, but that my own is in a distant galaxy from his and there isn't a telescope powerful enough to see it. Truth be told, I actually get a kick out of the "Brettster" and have grown fond of him. I admire him, like a thick-skinned little soldier that marches on under fire, even if they are heavily out-gunned. Some may call stupidity, but I call it perseverance. I can't imagine the list without him; just as every tale needs its heroes (or heroines) and villians, the CoV needs more square eggs. He can't be that evil, as far as I know he doesn't torture small animals, nor is he the Vatican. He's misguided, is all. But-- there is a big BUT here-- when he steps on my toes with ignorant assumptions and a condescending attitude, my temper flares and I feel it my duty to put him in his place. Therefore he should refrain from remarks that are predictably offensive and hurtful to me.

Perhaps the flame participants need to put away their guns and say, "Alright, now that I've got *that* out of my system, we can be friends now." Sure, it sounds simple and childlike now, but I think it's actually quite a mature and adult way of dealing with Internet enmity. I've found it works best for me.

In conclusion, is it really too much to ask for others to refrain from tainting this forum with their nonproductive, narrow-minded and anti-minority remarks? Am I wrong in protesting and becoming angry when people do? Shouldn't I defend when I've been metaphorically attacked? I hope that I have thoroughly explained why it is that I sometimes fly off the handle. Walking the middle path with yellow ornaments on my shoes is like mastering the tightrope, and I'm no ballerina, nor am I perfect.

{making up for lost time}