Over the course of my brief career as an unpaid Opinions columnist, I have heard a fair amount of feedback from a diverse group of readers. The spirit of honest criticism and praise (oh the praise!) inspires me, no matter what its form.
There’s my mom, who repeatedly tells me that I’m brilliant. If I wrote an eighth installment of Harry Potter in which Harry takes solace in bestiality after Ginny’s tragic death from an undiagnosed burst appendix while Hermione decides to stop doing magic and instead concentrate on a JD, mother would still praise my prophetic imagination. God bless her; she’s probably that nice because she was born in Hawaii (true story).
There’s my uncle, a professional writer, who says I should try to sound more like him.
There’s my best friend, a profoundly intelligent future somebody-important, who usually catches something like the slight misuse in the fourth paragraph of a gerund in a sentence that would, stylistically speaking, be better suited with a finite verb form.
And then there is a single anonymous internet poster who recently commented that my last article “defines A. white privilege and B. what it means to be a douchebag. It’s disappointing that the TSL stoops to publish such meaningless drivel.”
I came across such a grandiose display of literary criticism while my innocent eyes scanned my own article so as to allow my beautiful self another chance to bathe in my own Salinger-esque literary genius. What a surprise it was!
Up until then, I had been having a very bad day. I woke up on the Sunday following Harwood Halloween feeling awful. Not hungover awful, much worse. It could have been the swine flu, or just a malicious virus, but I felt like a 98 year old dying slowly.
I sat in my room with the lights turned out and stared at the ceiling for four hours, unable to nap even though the only thing I wanted to do was lose consciousness and pass the time painlessly.
After suffering an existential nervous collapse and being force fed my dinner by a kind friend (thanks, Phoebe) I checked tsl.pomona.edu, and therein encountered the aforementioned first comment directed at me.
Confession: I wasn’t really checking The Student Life online to bathe in my Salinger-esque literary genius. I thought that my last article was a somewhat clear aggrandizement of an attitude foreign to Claremont. The clear work of an alter ego free to describe “the heart-stopping terror of public transportation” under the assumption that readers would pick up on the not-vague strands of hyperbole. You know, the same way that Stephen Colbert, the person, doesn’t actually hate women, Jews, or John Stossel like Sir Stephen Colbert, on air, purports to.
Don’t take this the wrong way; I was thrilled to hear myself called a douchebag. It actually brightened up an otherwise awful day, and here’s why. I have no First Amendment right to expect the word “bestiality” to be published in the oldest student journalistic publication in Southern California. But sure enough, The Student Life editors go ahead and publish it anyway. Which might not seem like that big a deal, until you realize that by displaying the courage to print a single possibly controversial word, the editors empower themselves to print other controversial articles of actual necessity, like those which criticize the administration and college policies.
The best part of any good writing, whether informative or comedic, is unclouded honesty. Unfiltered words can capture sentiments either ignored or repressed by the masses, words that then often turn out to be transformative. Think Jean-Paul Marat, Freud, George Carlin or my personal favorite, the maestro of mitzvahs and masturbation, Philip Roth.
You might be wondering, how an anonymous internet poster in any way as relevant as the great Philip Roth in the quest for complete freedom in the transmission of ideas? He or she (I still have no clue) showed the same forceful perseverance as Roth in holding back nothing and speaking directly from the soul in a short but very public analysis. For that, he or she should be thrilled to receive the full force of my current gratitude.