Ever wonder why some conversations stick in your head for seemingly no reason? Almost twenty years ago, I was having a beer with my boss, a German man who was probably in his late forties at that time. He had worked in the US for many years and was well-respected by his peers. I don’t recall how we got on the subject, but he began to compare Americans with his countrymen. He started by listing the things he liked about us and how grateful he was to have had the opportunity to work in our country. Then he dropped his wisdom on me.
The difference, he said, was that in his country you could have a conversation about anything, religion, politics, whatever, with someone you had met for the first time. It was okay to share your beliefs with no fear of starting an argument. The whole concept of our being overly careful, politically correct, struck him as odd for a country created by men not afraid to thumb their collective noses at a king.
Maybe I remember his words because I had no good reply? I felt like I couldn’t defend my homeland? Or perhaps his words stuck because I recognized they were intentional and pointed at me? He was my boss and I think I was weighing a position in Munich at the time. Like I said, almost two decades have passed and the words are still with me.
I’m an author now with one book published and another in development. I also have this blog, for what it’s worth. Why do I put myself through this toil? It’s the same as any author. There are things inside me that I simply must get out. Whether my goal is to entertain, teach or some variant of these, my soul is not well unless I share. Fair enough, I now have a channel to be heard. What should I do with it?
A couple of years back, a writer friend of mine instructed me to stay away from controversial topics on my blog. She said it would hurt the sales of my book – alienating potential readers. Since she was a published author with a good blog that I follow, I took her advice. My other writer friends said this was wise. Just focus on your novels, write “nice” posts and build a following.
But this has left me unsettled. Those who are forced to be around me, know me as a person who uses humor in conversations to go places where the intrepid fear to go. I don’t do this to be mean. I just hate elephants. The ones in the room that people won’t talk about. Our time on this planet is so short, it feels like a crime against humanity to stay clear of these “forbidden” topics. Such timidity diminishes our very existence! Herein lies my problem. The blog, part of the channel that is meant to provide a relief to my writer’s voice, is blocked. I cannot be true to myself in one venue and a liar in another. I don’t do milquetoast.
The solution is obvious. But those are often the ones that we try are darndest to avoid. I need to write what’s on my heart and in my mind. I should do this in a way that isn’t meant to hurt anyone. Some folks might get emotionally charged, positive or negative. Hopefully this leads to discussions. The kind that changes one or both of us. Like a talk over beers with a friend.
So this is my goal from now on with this blog. I’m going to speak my piece about things that stir in me – religion, race, politics, business and yes, the most controversial, what’s wrong with baseball. Why am I telling my readers this, all six of you? Because I need to be held accountable. If you see a post that has the odor of vanilla, that shows no courage, call me out. Ask me where I left my spine. Remind me of this promise I am making to myself and you – I will give no thought to the rocking of the boat when I write in this space.