Welcome to Controversial by Default

Tell me if you can relate. A little voice inside your head tells you, “don’t say that out loud, please don’t say that out loud, it will be much easier for you if you just keep your mouth shut.” That voice is right- if you keep your thoughts to yourself, you’re not going to piss anyone off. You may fire up the rest of the committee inside of your head egging you on to do it already, say it, but not the people around you who have firmly established points of view and even more firmly entrenched political leanings. You know that voice is right. You may even be nodding along in agreement with it while you weigh your options. And then, still nodding- determined that this time you will heed that good advice and get the hell out of here unscathed, even better- unnoticed, you launch right into your thoughts on the future of nuclear energy, or the mindlessness of the left-right divide, or casual sexism, or government overreach, or the moral superiority of the comfortable majority.

I try not to let that be me every goddamn day but the struggle is real. If I can go to a party and manage to have people notice that I was there (“I think she waved at me, pretty sure I saw her”) and get out without having to interact with too many people, I count it as a success. I do not like to stand out in a crowd. And that’s getting increasingly difficult because these days a person stands out just for not sharing a majority, or popular, view.

In a world that seems increasingly polarized, divided into camps on the left and the right, it makes some sense to pick a camp- a home base, a group to identify with, a secure base to retreat to when the rock throwing begins. I can understand the appeal, to some extent. Group membership has always been a powerful motivator, and the old good versus evil story (though we should have tired of it by now) continues to play well among the masses, especially when we can put ourselves in the role of hero or at the very least on the side of the hero. I love a good fairy tale or action movie as much as the next person. I just have trouble placing myself in one.

I don’t know where I land on an issue ahead of a fair hearing and even then I sometimes find myself mulling a topic years after most have firmly decided one way or another. Sometimes I’ve reflected on an issue for years and finally reached a conclusion only to, upon further reflection, change my mind. The thing that is least likely to affect my opinion on a subject is which camp (or group of friends) supports an idea. That’s interesting to some extent (why does a group support/believe in something particular?) but as I’ve chosen to be politically homeless I’m not susceptible to peer pressure in that sense, which seems to irritate people to no end wherever they are on the political spectrum.

This is all just a very long way of saying that provoking people just seems to come naturally to me, though it’s never my intention. So in spite of that little voice, I’ve created this space to work through some of my thoughts and observations. There will be no structure or game plan. I’m just going to wander through this party bumping into things and occasionally offending while trying to find my way to the door. I’ll try to keep the breakage to a minimum.

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