I don’t feel like writing much these days. I don’t even feel like writing this.
At first I suspected I might be coming down with a touch of writer’s block, since I’d been writing pretty regularly since 2007. Last summer I moved to Vegas, and my fear was that leaving the physical space I’d called home all my life — Chicago — had somehow drained my mental space. Nevada is a desert, after all, and it’s no secret that a writer’s surroundings act as his muse. If all you see is nothing all day, then when it comes time to summon thoughts, nothing comes to mind.
But that isn’t it. Compared to the green of Illinois, the desert is nothing, but it’s still a beautiful, mountainous, ancient nothing, dotted with palm trees and cacti. Plus there’s the Strip and Fremont, with all their characters.
I have things in mind I want to write about, but I don’t feel like writing about them. That isn’t writer’s block, but something else, something like apathy. Yet I’m not apathetic either. No one who knows me well would describe me as someone who doesn’t care about what’s going on in the world beyond the narrow boundaries of my own life, and they especially wouldn’t describe me as someone with nothing to say.
I don’t feel like writing because of you — not you per se, but the person on the other end of this writing business: the reader. I no longer trust you. I no longer understand how you think, and so it’s been tough figuring out how to communicate with you. As I said above, I’ve been writing for a minute and have always written with the confidence that my words would be more or less understood, that a lot, if not most of the people reading me would know where I’m coming from. I no longer believe that.
It changed during the closing months of the last election, when it seemed much of the voting public fell in lockstep with their candidate, turned their backs on objective reality, and began demonizing everyone who wasn’t with them. I caught some of that hell when I tried convincing readers that Hillary Clinton was the worse option — yes, worse than Trump. I laid out the reasons in a number of articles, positive that the facts of Hillary’s career proved she wasn’t nearly as progressive as she pretends to be. I still believe that, and I still catch hell.
But Trump was a boogeyman too powerful for many liberals to ignore, and I was called everything from irresponsible and clueless to a crypto-conservative. I heard this from people who know almost nothing about politics, current events or history; their ignorance didn’t matter: they were in the majority, which made me wrong.
These days it’s not about what you say but how loud you say it, and how many other people are saying it with you.
Take what happened at Middlebury College in Vermont. A group of conservative students invited Professor Charles Murray to discuss his 2012 book, Coming Apart, which makes the obvious case that the growing economic disparity between whites and people of color is also occurring among white people themselves. But Murray had written another book, 1994’s The Bell Curve, which ties differences in intelligence to race, along with a bunch of other factors. Professor Murray has been panned as a white supremacist ever since.
When the professor showed up at Middlebury earlier this month, he found an angry crowd waiting for him. They first turned their backs on Professor Murray and the liberal professor interviewing him, but then they decided they wouldn’t let Murray speak at all — not in the lecture hall, nor in the private room the two men escaped to in hopes of carrying on their discussion. The protesters kept chanting, banging on windows, and even pulled the professor’s hair so hard it sent her to the hospital. The event was canceled.
Something similar happened at Berkeley when a right-wing attention whore by the name of Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to speak there last month. And there were, of course, the massive crowds that shut down candidate Trump’s rallies throughout last year, beginning most notably in my home town. At the time I thought the protesters were wrong for not allowing Trump to speak at one of his own campaign rallies.
I still think that, and I’m still catching hell for it, too.
Rare is the person willing to read or hear something they don’t already completely agree with, which makes my job as a writer practically futile. I didn’t choose to write just so I could read what everyone else is saying, pick the most popular opinions, and repeat those. That isn’t why I turned my back on making money and decided to spend my days studying. I’m after the truth. And I’m not being grandiose either; I’m not talking about capital-T Truth. I mean only the simple facts of any issue: that Trump isn’t even one of the top five greatest threats facing the United States; that Hillary would’ve been worse than Trump; that there’s no meaningful difference between the Democrats and the Republicans; that you can’t talk about solving the race issue or the gender gap without talking about capitalism; that, in many ways, but especially economically and politically, Latinos are their own worst enemies.
I have a lot I want to write about, but I see little use in it. Few people will read it, mostly those who are already of a like mind or at least share such opinions with me. The crushing majority of people will never read it — because fewer and fewer people actually do read nowadays — and most of those who do, though they call themselves liberals, won’t like what I have to say and, thus, will strongly disagree. I have to stress the point: They won’t strongly disagree for intellectual reasons, but emotional ones. To a liberal, any fact that hurts feelings must be wrong.
I’m a writer, for fuck’s sake. I’m not going to start issuing trigger warnings, sugarcoating my words or avoiding topics that I know will offend some readers. I became a writer to offend more than some readers. I became a writer to offend myself — my beliefs and all my preconceived notions about the world and how it works. A writer who states the obvious isn’t a writer, just a clerk. I’m trying to work things out on the page.
The internet has become even more splintered that any writing is mostly an intellectual pursuit. If and when I write, it’s only to prove to myself that I still can. I write to practice thinking. I love writing, and always will, but I no longer deceive myself into believing I’m going to change the world by changing a few minds. That dream is dead — perhaps for the better.
The best I can do is write what I believe to be the truth, based on my studies, and hope that someone, somewhere, at sometime, will have a mind open enough to at least consider my arguments and observations. I’m done trying to convince you of anything, especially when you’ve already convinced yourself.
Featured image: Jeroen Bennink/Flickr