Welcome to Sunday, y’all. I’m going to try to keep today’s post short, simple, and non-controversial. Yesterday’s post was a rant, because I was really angry and emotional for a lot of reasons. I’m less so today, because when it comes down to it, some people just aren’t worth the energy. Or, at least to me they aren’t. Maybe they are worth the energy to others. I’m sure plenty of people wish I’d drop dead. Other people think I’m incredible. It’s kind of like art, right? What one person likes, another person hates. There’s no accounting for taste.
Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about so-called constitutional “auditors”. These are people who get involved in police interactions as a means of testing their knowledge of the laws and finding out if they respect rights outlined in the Constitution. I see there are Brits who also do these videos. Personally, I don’t think I’d want to do that kind of stuff, even for YouTube, because I don’t enjoy unnecessary or unpleasant confrontations with people. However, I do think the videos are interesting and informative. They’re also very popular, as I’ve noticed a lot of people are making them. I’m sure that makes it harder to be a cop, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Some police officers do get off on power trips and need to be brought back down to Earth.
Today’s post isn’t about those videos. Rather, I would like to address an attitude that I saw promoted by an officer in Richmond, Virginia. An auditor confronted him and said he was an “independent journalist”. And the cop basically made some snarky, dismissive comment about how the journalist was just going to put something up on YouTube.
As a blogger and occasional music creator, I’ve often run into the dismissive attitude demonstrated by the cop. A lot of people don’t think what I do is “legitimate”. Former tenant, who was stalking my blogs for four plus years before she departed this life on her own terms, once made a very disrespectful private comment to me about what I do. It was not surprising that she had secretly harbored a disdainful opinion of me, as she was monitoring my activities and, apparently, reporting my activities to our former landlady, as she also insisted on her privacy being respected. However, I did find her discounting attitude disappointing, hypocritical, short-sighted, and depressingly typical.
Former tenant claimed that she didn’t see any value in what I do, yet she was apparently watching me obsessively. Obviously, there was some value in my activities, if only that she and ex landlady and ex landlady’s daughter could sit around, gossip, and laugh about it, right? At the very least, they got intel from it… or insight… or maybe even something to talk or laugh about that might have even made them feel better about themselves.
Former tenant had once claimed that she liked reading about our adventures and seeing photos, especially of the old neighborhood she and her husband had lived in before they abruptly moved mid tour. If that’s the truth, then there was value in my activities. If it wasn’t the truth, I guess she was lying to me, as she was sanctimoniously lecturing me about my occasionally “problematic” content. Or… she wasn’t lying, but just wanted to be mean to me because she thought it was her place to define what constitutes creative pursuits. She didn’t see the value in what I was doing, and didn’t have the integrity to just go away and leave me alone. It didn’t occur to her that maybe other people valued my “work”, and they get a vote, too.
This morning, I noticed that Janis Ian was on a tear about the author, Flannery O’Connor. She had recently used one of O’Connor’s quotes as her “quote of the day”. People in the comment section were up in arms about it, because Flannery O’Connor had some objectionable personal beliefs that many modern audiences would find distasteful or just plain wrong.
Janis Ian claims that she doesn’t support censorship, and she writes that we should separate artists’ personal lives with their works. This is what she posted on her Facebook page:
Re the discussion about Flannery O’Connor’s work, a note of clarification – I wouldn’t have intervened if the discussion had centered around her work. However, it quickly became involved in personalities (mostly hers), her letters, her journals. Those were not her work. Her work lies in the short stories and novels she left us.
As an artist, I will always stress that there is a marked difference between the life of an artist, and an artist’s work. Discounting or banning an artist, or refusing to engage with that artist’s work, because you disagree with their personal life, politics, or behavior, is something I find absurd.
Like every artist I know, I hope to live up to the best of my work – and know I never will. What do I want my art, and that of artists I admire, to do when someone experiences it? I want them to feel elevated. I want them to have cause to think, and reflect, and be moved, for good and for bad. Mostly, I want to make them FEEL something.
I believe most artists think this way, though it might not be conscious.
I won’t change the words of another artist to suit the times, or peoples’ perception of what is hurtful to them. I am resolutely against changing a single word or image or movement in any piece of art; instead, I expect people to take it in context, look at it historically, be educated by parents, teachers, and themselves (indeed, educating yourself is an obligation, IMHO, because most people don’t have the luxury of parents, teachers, society teaching them all they need to know).
If you are on this page, keep in mind that civility is expected. Snarky comments are removed and, after a certain point, that profile is blocked. Rudeness is not tolerated and yes, I define what is rude. And co-opting a quote to discuss an author’s personal beliefs because you disagree with them is not okay.
The QOTD (Quote of the Day) is for discussion. Not whether the author or their views are likeable.
In the spirit of the discussion, then, I found this interesting article on line. https://dspace.calstate.edu/…/121/completethesis.pdf…
A good and absorbing (though long) read for anyone interested in O’Connor and her work.
Additionally, as someone pointed out, there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. For what it’s worth.
I have written about Janis Ian a few times on this blog. I want to make it clear that I highly respect her as an artist. She’s written and sung some beautiful songs. I think she’s smart and funny, and she deserves all of the accolades she gets. However, I also think that sometimes, she’s quite hypocritical. She writes in the above post that she doesn’t support changing artistic works to suit the tastes of modern audiences. But then, she also lays down very strict rules about what people can post as a response.
Janis Ian writes that she doesn’t see Flannery O’Connor’s letters or journals as artistic works. However, there are many artists and academics who would beg to disagree with her. Personally, I disagree, because I know there’s an element of creativity in blogging. There’s also creativity involved in writing letters. Maybe it’s not the same significance as writing a novel or composing music, but it’s still a work of art, in a sense.
I’m very proud of some of my blog posts. I wrote one a couple of years ago that I reread this morning. It was titled “The Red Scare”. It started off being about how, back in 1981, people were terrified of a Soviet invasion. By the end, I had segued into a discussion of puberty, with a dash of musical theater. It sounds like the parts wouldn’t connect, and yet they did. I thought it was a really creative and interesting post, although it’s definitely not one of my most popular. My most popular posts tend to be about true crime, which I find a lot less creatively challenging.
I’m sure someone like Janis Ian wouldn’t find what I do very significant, artistic, or creative. Hell, the troll on RfM yesterday took a big dump on my post about Arran. And yet, that incident inspired yesterday’s blog post. At this point, it has just one “like” and five hits, and yet I’m rather proud of it. I like the title, and letting my feelings out in a rant can be very liberating and even fun.
I was legitimately angry and upset when I wrote that post, and yet I don’t regret writing it. Maybe someone out there in Internetland can relate to it. Maybe it would even change someone’s life. I will never know. A few people did tell me that my video tribute for Arran made them cry. That accounts for something, doesn’t it? Isn’t the point of putting stuff out there to make someone think, or feel something, or maybe even change in some way? Isn’t that what art on all levels is about?
A person named Laurel left a comment for Janis that I found very interesting:
The Tennessee Williams Estate agrees with you. When we staged 2 of his one act plays, we asked about updating the word he used to refer to black people, and were told no, and that if any actor chose to replace that term with a more modern one, the production would be fined for any instance of a changed word. They felt the term was appropriate in the time the play was written, and carefully chosen for the overall “lyrical” flow of the various passages. And I personally did not disagree with their choice or their reasoning.
Art is not necessarily meant to comfort; it is more often meant to disrupt thought patterns, open minds, and sometimes even disturb for effect. Creators often edit numerous times to find the perfect word to fit THEIR visions. If it disturbs you, well maybe that was the intent.
And yes, an artist and that artist’s art are 2 very different things. Most artists are imperfect. Their art may reflect that.
Apparently, Laurel then left a couple of follow up comments that Janis didn’t like. She wrote this:
“tone it down. I’m hiding both your responses.”
So… Janis Ian doesn’t see all writing as “artistic” or creative. But then another commenter wrote this, and Janis heartily approved:
“there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. 50+ years ago in Dallas a friend of Mexican descent taught me the difference between: bigotry (racism), prejudice and discrimination. He spoke from experience. I’ve shared his wisdom many times since then. It has helped me put a lot of things in perspective. Mainly: we all have prejudices (in favor and against many things); we can legislate against discrimination (an action) but unfortunately not bigotry (a belief).
Janis wrote: “so stealing…”
The commenter misunderstood Janis and wrote, “sorry I missed the mark there. Your last comment in your post took me off on a nostalgia tour. Thanks for the memory – I’ll try to do better in the future.”
Janis clarified, “I’m not sure what you’re referring to? I’m stealing what you posted, to use later!”
And the commenter wrote, “lol. I get confused so easily any more. Feel free to “steal”.
From that exchange, I take that sometimes Facebook comments can be “works of art”. Or, at least they can be so good that Janis Ian wants to “steal” them to use later. But someone else writes something that she doesn’t like, or uses a “tone” that she alone finds objectionable, and then it has no value and “censorship” is okay.
The troll who left me the mean spirited comment on RfM yesterday really hurt my feelings and, I’m sure, meant to make me feel terrible. Or, at the very least, they didn’t care about my feelings, even though it was clear that I was mourning a huge loss and expressing myself on a “recovery site”. Make no mistake about it. I still think that person is a massive fuckwad and I’d happily fantasize about rendering them sterile with a well placed drop kick to the gonads.
But, at the same time, that person’s mean comments provided fuel for yesterday’s post… which some people may value on some level, even if it’s just to laugh at me for making the effort to write it. Also, it’s not lost on me that some people might have agreed with that person’s very mean comments. So maybe I shouldn’t have reported them. In fact, I could have probably turned that person’s post into a plea for sympathy and gotten even more views on Arran’s video… if that was my ultimate goal. It wasn’t my goal, by the way. I don’t share things just to get likes or views.
When it comes to published works, I agree with Janis Ian that it’s wrong to “edit”. In fact, I don’t like cancel culture at all. I think people should have the right to decide for themselves what is, or what is not objectionable to them and vote with their wallets. I also think that people should have the right to make their own rules in their own houses, so to speak. At the same time, there does seem to be a level of hypocrisy in the idea that some “offensive” writing is okay, and some isn’t. And so far as some people’s ideas of what is, and what is not “offensive”, is somehow better than other people’s ideas are… well I think that’s how we end up with extremist loudmouth assholes like Donald Trump in the White House. People don’t like to be told what they can or can’t say, think, or believe. They will vote for those whom they think will protect their right to be an asshole.
I do kind of like how Janis handled this person, though…
Meh… well, I guess I’m glad that most people don’t value what I do. I don’t think I’d want people to “expect more from me”, just because I made a living creating things. Everybody’s human, and everybody’s shit stinks. Whether it’s former tenant being rude and dismissive about my creative pursuits, while also obsessively stalking me… or Janis Ian telling people not to judge artists by their personal lives or support censoring them, as she censors and steals people’s posts… or commenters feeling that their decision not to buy things made in China as they also pay taxes to governments that have policies that harm people… Or a cop thinking an “independent journalist” isn’t a “real” journalist, and there’s no value in what they do… Some people would beg to disagree, right? And some people think that in order to be “legitimate” as an artist, one must be formally employed by someone else. Some of those independent journalists on YouTube are actually making enough money to live on, though.
People are always going to be offensive and inappropriate on some level. Sometimes, I’ll admit I get upset about stuff, but then it leads to a good rant that might make people think or feel… or even just laugh. I think as long as people learn and grow from their experiences, that should be our focus. I think we should all keep creating, whether or not someone else thinks it’s a valid pursuit, or the creator is a “decent person” whose views should be promoted.
But isn’t it nice that we can still disagree? For now, anyway. And isn’t it nice when people are doing something constructive with their time? It reminds me of the trash scavengers/dumpster divers in Texas who used to raid people’s trash for metal they could turn in for money. To them, that was a job that actually helped them keep the lights on, even if some of us didn’t appreciate them rifling through trash we were throwing out so they could make a living off our discards. Some people think certain art is “trash”. Other people think that same art is “brilliant”.
And no matter what you might think of what I do, I still think of myself as a writer and a singer. You gotta start somewhere, right? Lots of people like me didn’t become “legitimate” until they were already dead. Think about it. 😉
ETA: So much for keeping this post short and non-controversial. Oh well.