1. In retrospect I suppose I’m a little embarassed by my response to the Elizabeth Moon discussion. Not by the text, but by the person I remember writing it. Although I wouldn’t have said so at the time, looking back I can see that my arguments, although I still agree with them, or have come back to them again, were clumsily expressed, that I was right more by good luck than good judgement. While other people were making strong, intelligent arguments, I was mostly just riding the wave of popular opinion, picking up a few links and a few new readers by offering a half-arsed reactive approximation of the things I saw the people I looked up to saying.
2. In truth, at that age there were only two or three things I believed sincerely. Most of the things I said were just bits of debris I clung to because I was lost. It’s not that I didn’t mean the things I said. I meant them, it’s just that they didn’t go deeper than the blood circulating just beneath the skin. They were felt, but only easily, never integrally.
3. It felt good, I suppose, to be part of something. Some zeitgeist bigger than just me.
4. Even at the time, a part of me was embarrassed by the nice things people said about that post. Because I knew that while there were a lot of brilliant, intelligent, incisive posts out there, that tore into the arguments and spat them out with intellectual disdain, my own post was lazy and played to the crowd. It was funny, I guess, and it made some good points, but easy ones. I never allowed myself the bravery, the risk, of engaging with the discussion from any place inside me. Years later, I wished I had been strong enough to tear into her. Or else the voice of dissent, compassion. But instead I stood in the middle, nowhere. Just a fractured ripple.
5. A lot of the vehemence in the comments made me doubt myself. There were plenty of intelligent, thoughtful comments, of course. But what stood out were the angry, stupid ones. Because they made me wonder what they saw in me. When smart people disagreed with me it never really upset me. I knew there were people smarter than me. But when stupid people agreed with me, that’s what challenged everything I thought I knew about myself.
6. In my forties, I will admit, I voted conservative a couple of times. I’m not proud of it. I was self-centred and relatively well off. But I comfort myself that, just as Clinton never inhaled, my candidates never got in.
7. I think I ran from the person I saw in that post, in a thousand similar posts. I saw somebody doing the right thing, not out of courage, not out of intellectual rigour, but out of fear. Out of the need for some kind of identity. And I swung to conservatism because I rejected that person, the same way I had swung to radicalism in my twenties out of hatred for the teenager from a small, narrow-minded town.
8. Later, again, in my fifties, when I mellowed, I got over that. I started to be able to embrace the strong beliefs I’d held, in love, in social justice. But I returned to them different. These days when I look at the person I was when I was younger I am full of love, full of kindness. I have embraced my former selves, with all their stupidity, their laziness, their insecurity, their many failures and the insubstantiality of everything they ever achieved.
I’ve learned that every hurtful thing we do not because we hate other people but because we hate ourselves.
9. I love Elizabeth Moon, too, no matter how stupid, how wrong she might have been.
10. The night before my sixtieth birthday, I went through my old blogs. All seventy-six of them. I read maybe one post out of a hundred. Most of the entries were about eating.
11. Out of curiosity, I googled that community centre. It’s still there. There was some graffiti and a couple of bottles thrown in the first couple of years. Once a body was found outside, but it turned out to be unrelated. The conservatives seemed to forget about it after a while. I guess they had other things to be angry at.
12. I read a few of those old posts by other people again. Some of them still seem brilliant, insightful. Some of them still seem half-arsed and ranting.
13. The whole conflict of religions thing… well, you all know how that turned out.
14. I never did get around to reading the original post by Moon. I tried to find it, a couple of nights ago, but it had been taken down, years ago, replaced by a picture of a kitten.