It’s not my practice to be particularly personal in this blog, but since the main subjects I cover are politics and history, the personal must necessarily inform the political and historical thoughts (and positions) of a person.
I am a writer. To write is my primary calling in life; I write different things. I write speeches and manifestos, which are varieties of propaganda. I write essays, which, if not necessarily achieving the level of art, aspire to be artful while avoiding excessive artifice. On the whole, however, the write pursues his craft -requiring perpetual honing, and constant learning, and most of all, means and vehicles for publication- only when the writer is free to write what he truly believes, in his own voice, while also earning his daily bread, which requires assuming the voices of others. What does this mean? To write my column and this blog, other essays and pieces in various publications, I must be free to say what I want, in the manner I prefer. At the same time, there are times I write in order to help express the views of others, for example in speeches commissioned by others, in manifestos expressing the consensus arrived at by groups, in editorials defining an institutional position. If there is no freedom, none of these things is possible, particularly when it comes to the kind of writing in which I specialize; if there is a price to be paid, for writing either what I believe or others want to express, I will be among the first to pay that price, either due to attempts at censorship, restricting expression, or silencing those upon whom I depend to earn a living. To write requires the ability to inspire, provoke, offend, denounce, praise, vilify and question. Anything that attempts to impede the reason for being of the writer -to put pen to paper, to create- is the enemy of the writer.
I am adopted. This means my identity has been given me not by accident, but deliberate choice, which means in a sense, a stronger, but also more fragile, identity. I am who -and what- I am, but I am more and often less, than who others think that I am. If I were patient enough for philosophy, the many questions of being -as defined by myself, as defined by my family, as defined by others who would impose their views as to the insufficiency, even improbability, at times, in their views, the unsuitability, of the identity defined by my family and myself, would make for a fascinating exercise. But I am not philosophical by nature. My primary experience has been the nurturing of family, the supportive identification made by my family, my own personal search for meaning and heritage that has been more questioning and at times, more complicated, than the experiences of my family members. The cocoon of family nurturing has been punctured time and again by the harsh judgments of outsiders, who would not grant to me, what is only my family’s to give. It has been a constant, and at times painful, though as I grow older increasingly less painful, lesson how fleeting and transitional people’s identifications can be, how superficial they often are, and how one person’s, and even a family’s, reality is so easily either accepted or denounced by others. Anything, anyone, who would deny someone adopted what is only their adoptive family’s to define, and give -is the enemy of the adopted child.
I am Gay. This makes me a member of a minority judged, vilified, misunderstood, and persecuted by those who claim to possess the right to judge others and impose their judgments on others. To live and love as a Gay person is to resist, fight, and denounce those who would deny you the ability to pursue your own ways and means of finding affection. In the realm of religion, this requires the defense of a secular society that accords me the rights and protection religion would deny me; and yet, having experienced both the good and bad that religion can inspire in others, it requires of me a healthy respect and desire for dialogue. Anything and anyone who would restrict the human and political rights of a Gay person, is the enemy of the Gay person.
I am a former drug addict. The preeminent lesson this teaches someone is that weaknesses and cravings are monumental aspects not only of the human condition, but of individual experience. To experience addiction is to realize there are false and true friends; that in the end, one’s best friend and enemy is one’s self; that one is neither a basket case nor superhuman, and that life is sometimes best lived out one day at a time, and at other times, lived with a conscious effort made to neither flee the past, or shrink from the future, and that embracing the present is only a good thing when one’s judgment is not impaired. Those who would judge, rather than assist, who on the other hand, condone but do not strive to correct, are unworthy to be called people.
I am a burn survivor. I have been near death; I have suffered injuries; I bear the scars of that experience. I must carry through life both physical and mental traumas, but also the experience of having received compassionate help from people: friends, family, even strangers; much more so, the knowledge that pain will pass, suffering will abate, but also that there are life-defining moments for each one of us. This means a healthy appreciation of the role both human science and inscrutable fate plays in the lives of individuals and whole societies. Anything, or anyone, who does not promote compassion, and who thinks this shouldn’t be one of the most cherished and creative forces in society, is someone I cannot fully respect.
All these things make it clear to me that there are certain things I hate: I hate, most of all, the tyranny of the majority, the dictatorship of ideology and religion, most especially when its dogma is aided by force of arms and the mob mentality. History teaches me that neither fascism nor communism has ever made room for my kind; experience has demonstrated to me, that those who do not think, or who think they have the answers to everything, as every bit as cruel -and crueler still, in many cases- than those they claim to dislike as either morally, politically, or socially inferior. While I admire the powerful force for good that organizations, parties, religions and states can be, I loathe the force for oppression, persecution, destruction and exploitation that by nature, they also tend to be. I have seen the best and worst all walks of life have to offer, and do not trust those who would impose change by force -but I recognize that change is not only inevitable, it is healthy, it is necessary, it must be encouraged, for to thwart change is to begin its mutation into a force for evil and not good. I recognize there is good and evil, that the evil may become good, and the good often fail to realize when they have become evil. To me, debate, discussion, an abiding curiosity and a discomfort with certainties, are what, in the end, help to achieve the only real goal we should have in life: a society where compassion between individuals rules, and in which certainties, that lead to inflexible moral and political hierarchies, do not.