I get accused a lot.
So I think I should probably confess.
As a blogger whose sole reason for existence is to entertain a far-flung and widely divergent audience of individuals, not every one of whom agrees with everything I say in every particular, I regularly get accused of having distorted views. I get accused of having a male perspective, or a white perspective, or an American perspective, or a Western perspective, or a liberal perspective, or a Midwestern perspective, or the perspective of a person whose youth is a fond and receding image in an ever-increasingly rose-tinted rearview mirror. Usually, such accusations are couched in terms of extreme umbrage, as if it is obvious that I would seize every effort to avoid appearing to be those things if only my accusers could somehow make me realize that I was coming across that way.
But it's really no use trying to hide: it's true—all true. I am all those things. I am a male American Caucasian, smack-dab in the middle of middle age*, entirely or almost entirely of Western European descent. Religiously, I'm a nonbeliever, although my heritage is Protestant Christian. I was born in Indiana and live in Wisconsin, so I'm a Midwesterner. Personally, i.e. in terms of my style and behavior, I'm quite conservative, although politically I'm a little to the left of liberal—even though I come from a long line of Republicans. I'm middle-class, although I'm descended from upper-class forebears and have relatives who either belong to that class or stoutly sympathize with its interests. I'm am somewhat bigoted against people who can't or won't use English well, but probably only because I overvalue what I myself am good at and care about (a common human trait). On the other hand, I am jealous of those who are bilingual or better. Oddly, given my predilections and inclinations, I am not well educated—I do not hold an academic Bachelor's degree (my highest degree is a BFA in Photography). I am a persistent autodidact, however, if I may immodestly say so (albeit with some of the shortcomings that that implies), and consider myself fairly well read, compared to the general population.
Not all of these things are immutable, being variously rather more or rather less fixed, but they all are the case.
For these reasons, it's really quite unreasonable for people to expect me to have the perspective of, say, an impoverished, religiously devout, right-wing female Ph.D. of color from the Third World who would sooner trod hot coals than crack a book. Or some other type of person that I don't happen to be. If that is intolerable to anyone, I can only remind them that they are the masters of their own courses and captains of their own browsers; the 'Net is broad, and contains multitudes.
The word "intolerable," reminds me that I also got accused recently of being intolerant. That is a grave charge in today's world, where toleration is considered a cardinal virtue, and when the charge was hurled in my face I took exception, at first; but then I examined it, and concluded that it, too, sadly, is true: I'm intolerant of greed, cruelty (cruelty especially), selfishness, unkindness, narcissism, brutality, immorality, Ford Expeditions, noise pollution, Sarah Palin, and superstition and willful ignorance, to name just a few of many things. I am quite an intolerant fellow, when you look at it that way.
And speaking of "fellow"—this is true—I once angered a reader by calling him a "fellow," which he was dead certain was an insult. (It's not, actually; but he was having no part of that.) The list of my offenses lengthens.
It's possible I am not who I would choose to be, if unlimited alternatives were merely up for choosing. I would choose to be richer, and fifteen years younger, and to have married young, and to be a writer of books. But such is life, and there are certain things that by accident or design I happen to be. I am largely stuck with them. I don't even much mind; I find myself...curiously sanguine about the situation. Perhaps I am used to myself, and accustomed to being me. Perhaps my situation could be better; then again, I'm sure it could be worse. I prefer to see it from the good side.
Or, to quote once again the hero of my extreme youth, the immortal Popeye:
I yam what I yam.
And there's an end on't.
*The DSM-IV-TR defines middle age as 45 to 65, revised upwards from the traditional definition by five years to accommodate the fact that people are now living and retaining their vigor for longer. It remains to be seen whether either of these trends will manifest in me, but I'm going with it.
"Open Mike" is a series of miscellaneous off-topic ramblings that trundle into view on Sundays.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Ed Grossman: "Each of us is unique...just like everybody else! I don't know if thinking about that makes me more tolerant, but it helps me 'let it go' when somebody's broadcasting on the crazy channel."
Featured Comment by Auntipode: "Wow! I'll be of middle age for another year. Feelin' younger than I did a few moments ago. Thanks, Mike. :-)"
Featured Comment by Rob Graves: "You are what you are. And I prefer honesty to political correctness any day. Please keep up the honest, male, Midwestern, grammatically correct insights into your world and your views on photography and life. I may not always agree, but that is what keeps it interesting. (Aside—my father adored Popeye, and I inherited a 3' Popeye 'doll,' complete with pipe and hat. Popeye also resulted in me, aged 7, declaring that I loved spinach. Unfortunately the reality of spinach did not match my imagination.)"
Mike replies: I actually do love Spinach, and blame Popeye.
Featured Comment by Ruby: "Excellent post, clear and to the point and the sort of thing people need reminding of from time to time. Brings to mind the one you wrote about how there is such imbalance in a system where some people can afford to spend millions of dollars on a single piece of art while others can't afford food, and that offends you. That captured my feelings better than anything else ever had, until possibly today (although I am female and not a Midwesterner)."
Featured Comment by Dan: "I think it's good to explicitly acknowledge one's privilege, social background, etc., and how it affects one's perspective on the world. No suppression is required; self-awareness will do."
Featured Comment by Paul Crouse: "But have you been accused of being a Cheesehead, when you are clearly a Hoosier. :-) "
Featured Comment by Bob Rosinsky: "My sentiments exactly. Although,I may be a shade crankier than you."
Featured Comment by Mark Walker: "Mike, your trouble is you just fly off the handle, write ill concepted, porrly grammatically uncorrected, subversive opinions that just tick the vast majority of us right off. Jeez, Mike, just calm down, I've never seen anyone get so upset over misjudged comments. Give them a break, the authors are more sensitive than you might think. Your humble and devoted audience. PS I skipped your really overlong paragraphs, but I kind of understood everything you said anyway. Bark Walker."
Featured Comment by Ann: "Am now reading Wittengstein because of your blog! Have been a fan of TOP for several years and read it most days. Not a middle aged, middle class male and don't feel an outsider at all!"