It seems to me that it’s getting harder and harder for us to say what’s on our minds, these days. If we get even the slightest bit controversial, we’re told to keep quiet because someone might get upset. If we speak in shades of blue and green rather than stark black and white, we risk being attacked by those who are colorblind.
A politician makes a nuanced and valid point and his words are distorted and he’s jumped on for going too far. The outrage is as phony as the people who make the charge, of course, but the drums start beating anyway, and before you know it, he’s tarred and feathered by the press.
This has been going on for quite awhile now. I see evidence of it everywhere. People afraid to speak up about how they feel. Holding back because they don’t want to risk offending anyone. Or being branded a troublemaker. Or losing their jobs.
A woman in the workplace can’t mutter a swear word for fear that some co-worker might overhear her and turn her into the boss. And even a hint of sexual innuendo is immediate cause for firing.
A man can’t wear a certain declarative T-shirt in public because he might become a target of harassment.
It’s as if we’re all being conditioned to be afraid of our own shadows. We’re taught to be good and polite and inoffensive, because good and polite and inoffensive people get rewards. Like food on the table. Cars to drive. TVs to watch.
As authors, we debate about the language we use. Is it too strong? Should we tone it down? Make our books more palatable? We avoid any obvious political or religious statements because we’re afraid we’ll lose half our readers. And half our income.
Recently, a bestselling author wrote a book featuring his series character and, according to the reviews on Amazon, went a little too far this time out. The author dared to give his character a point of view — one that didn’t sit well with some of his readers — and the Amazon reviewers went nuts, telling the author to keep his politics out of his books. How dare he ruin their favorite hero by making him utter such tripe?
But really, folks, are we that shallow? Can we not recognize that EVERYONE has differing points of view about many different things, and simply learn to live with it without going ballistic? Especially when it comes to fiction.
Must authors and musicians and artists strive for the lowest common denominator? Strike the blandest note they can, in order to try to make everyone happy?
I don’t think so. We’re all adults here. Why on earth can’t we act like it? Why must we allow the emotionally stunted, the colorblind and the brain dead to dictate to us what we can and can’t say? Why must we tiptoe around them for fear that they’ll somehow steal our lives away?
To my mind, if we allow them to control us, then our lives are already gone.
In the words of Howard Beale, "I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore."
And maybe you shouldn’t either.
No offense intended, of course.