Thursday I got a pretty blistering e-mail rebuke for a blog post I had put out that morning. Much of the heat I took was based on a tweet I quoted, and then proceeded to admit that I could in some degree sympathize with where that person was coming from. The friend . . . and I do want to emphasize that this angry response did come from a much-loved friend . . . felt personally attacked by the whole thing, and responded hard, with all the skills of a talented writer. It was probably the best-written angry letter I have ever gotten, and I've gotten quite a few.
Sherlockiana, being a place of our joys and fun, leaves us all even more vulnerable when the knives do come out . . . and, as much as we'd like to think otherwise, they occasionally do. Passionate folk being passionate about something will have that now and then. Even when you're expecting something from somewhere, it's easy to get blindsided, and that sudden surprise punch in the gut always hurts. If Sherlockiana has never brought you pain, well, keep up whatever you're doing. I'd like to be you, but we choose our own paths for our own reasons.
So, after taking a step back, I'm going to try to write something in follow-up. It's not going to be fun, but I can't just quietly go on writing about the Elementary season finale or whatever like nothing happened.
I don't name names in my blogging. Sherlockiana is not that big a community, and I like letting people make their own judgment calls about our fellow citizens. So in my writings, I sometimes do what we all do now and again: make the blanket statement. Like "old white guys."
It's kind of ironic that when I was growing up there was a common descriptive phrase that went "He called him everything but a white man." These days, while all the other racist, sexist, and other group-slagging verbal options still exist, one group who didn't know what it felt like to be on the receiving end any more is now painfully aware of what it feels like. We didn't grow up feeling people had it out for their kind, like brown folk or non-conforming other sorts. So having that sudden "oh, this is what it feels like to be unfairly lumped in with a group-assigned trait" is a new pain.
Now, I've probably made somebody angry with those generalities, too, because I wasn't talking about one specific person, even though I was. I was talking about Brad Keefauver. There, I named a name, so if you were worried I was talking about you, you're okay. I am afraid to say things that might offend someone these days. I remember the things I got away with saying in my twenties in the workplace that you just don't even consider saying today. But everybody was smoking at work back then, too. We all need to watch what we say these days, because it's not 1967, and complain of "political correctness" all you want, it's just fucking good manners.
Oops. I shouldn't really tell anyone to mind their "p"s and "q"s with that mouth! We are curiously all over the map these days when it comes to our "do"s and "don't"s.
We don't name names often enough, and that could be one part of the problem. "Those old fart gate-keepers." "Those privileged jerks who don't even see their own privilege." "Those entitled young snots who think the world should be handed to them on a platter." It's like the old joke from a comedian we don't mention any more whose father said "Eat your vegetables, there are starving children in China," to which the comic claimed to reply, "Name one!"
If I specifically called out a gate-keeper, someone blind to their own privilege, or an entitled young punk, everyone except that person and their friends might just go, "Yeah, that person is a complete [insert epithet here]!" and not feel like you were attacking them and their entire club. Maybe I should use specific names when I want to talk about a gate-keeper or someone who makes a specific statement, even if it feels like a trend. It might keep folk like my angry correspondent from calling my every example in that previous blog "a straw man." Because they weren't. I just don't like naming names.
But it was certainly not "fake news." (Lord, don't we wish that phrase would go away.) The idea that there could be one actual Sherlockian as aggrieved as the one I quoted did not fit my friend's view of the world, which in examples given, was pretty much based on the New York weekend and mainstream "old school" Sherlockiana. But my experience says differently. Even the Twitter debates that followed my blog post said differently.
We all have a path and a story, and while we do have some spectacular liars in the public eye of late, most people have a story of their own that's true, even if we don't get it. On every spectrum, be it age, race, gender, orientation, mental style, body type . . . you name it. And I can't hope to fully understand what a gay black woman is going through in America right now, in 1960, or ever, because I'm not one. But if a specific gay black woman says to me, "Those old white penis-havers are going to kill me!" I might want to try really hard to see what's making her feel that threat before immediately shouting "NOT ME!" at the top of my lungs. Because maybe it was me. We shouldn't be afraid to say things, but we should think about them a little bit first.
I'm kind of an idiot that way. That's not self-hate, that's just experience. I blurt, I step on toes, both figuratively and literally, I forget that my brain works a little differently than most sometimes, because, like most humans, I do make mistakes. And I never stop trying to figure out how not to. Though I've been using this quote a bit lately, Sherlock Holmes definitely said, "Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for last." But I try to write what I'm currently seeing as the truth, even if I'm going to get called on the carpet for it later. We have to do that. And admit when we're wrong. As well as hold fast when we're right.
Sherlockiana may not be in for a Civil War, but it definitely could split off into denominations one of these days, if it hasn't already. There is the biggest generational gap in Sherlock Holmes enjoyment that has possibly ever existed, a product of both age and gender factors. A whole lot of Sherlockians can't see why certain other Sherlockians do what they do or don't do . . . or even figure out where they're doing it. But once you encounter them, you can't deny that those other Sherlockians exist for some reason that must make sense to them, and maybe they want to do what they want to do and not what you want to do.
And if they're aggrieved about a particularly thing, it might be good to wonder why for a bit. There might be a good reason. You'll catch me making statements about old, white guys on occasion, not because I hate the now-old white guys I came up with, but because when I was a young Sherlockian, old white guys gave me fits. And I've personally watched a beloved middle-aged white guy turn into a real pain-in-the-butt old white guy . . . kind of like I might be doing any second here, if it's not too late already. The emotions can start flowing more freely as the body starts to wear out, and life becomes like one of those Star Trek episodes where Kirk suddenly realizes he's got the malady that's been taking out the rest of his crew.
So, in conclusion, what am I saying here? Like I told my angry correspondent, I'm just trying to process. Trying to process a lot these days, a lot more than ever before. And if you want to vent at me about whatever, feel free. It's a part of the dues one pays for opening one's mouth in public. I may be sorry, I may apologize, or I might just ramble on and on until I wear myself out, fall asleep, and wake up to a fresh new day.
And on we go.