Writing for my enemy
It’s Monday night and the beginning of a new tradition — whiskey Zoom with two old friends. The call ends. The effects of the whiskey don’t. Rather than do the wise thing — drink some water and go to bed I just check Facebook.
I read a post that I consider dishonest, disingenuous and likely to promote harm.
There is a rise in my heart rate. I refute the post, with logic if not diplomacy.
My refute is met with a mixture of denial and counter-argument.
I meet the counter-argument with more logic and facts.
The facts and logic are ignored. The enemy maintains his position by talking about something else which is at best tangential.
The process continues. The enemy dismisses sources because they disagree with him and must, therefore, be biased.
The enemy generalises about the nature of entire nations, of entire continents.
The enemy categorises me as being part of a group that I do not belong to or agree with.
Faced with a skewering question, he clearly cannot answer, the enemy evades.
Faced with a statement, the enemy has posted since proven wrong, the enemy ignores the new information. He shows no appearance of learning or acknowledging past errors.
The whiskey wears off. I go to bed. My mind chews on the exchange and chases away sleep.
A groggy morning comes. The enemy is in a different time zone. I check to see if he has had the last word and whether it is worth countering.
The enemy is a real person. The enemy also lives inside my head.
I could ignore the enemy. Unfriending would be simple. I might sleep better at night. It would not be hard to turn my mind in other directions.
I could stop feeding the enemy in my head. I have a world of friends and interests, it would be enough to place my attention with these.
But I choose not to put the enemy down and I have to ask myself why not?
A first answer: there are things I care about, events which affect me, people close to me and also the world beyond. The enemy’s statements encourage (in)actions that will harm what I care about. His statements are born of ignorance and fed with prejudice.
I don’t put the enemy down because I want to defend what I care for.
I have seen my opinions change. I understand that I may not be right about pretty much everything. The universe is immense and my understanding is tiny.
I don’t put the enemy down because the enemy may expose me to the knowledge I would not otherwise get. I could be wrong.
Each person’s experience is unique and subjective, grown organically from a brew of life experiences. I am curious about how beliefs and worldviews are constructed.
I don’t up the enemy down because how he can think that way is a mystery that fascinates me.
Then there is the enemy’s apparent lack of self-awareness. Double standards, hostile bias and cherry-picking are apparent in his discourse. He accuses me of the same. Are his allegations accurate?
This makes the enemy a mirror to me, and I’m drawn to it. Are the enemy’s delusions just a reflection, or projection of my own?
I don’t put the enemy down because by studying that reflection, maybe I can learn about myself.
Or perhaps the constant clash of heads has caused enough pain. The mirror’s glass is hard.
I want to win, but I cannot beat the enemy into seeing things the way I want him to.
Perhaps it’s time to turn away from the struggle.
There is a tip for writers ‘imagine that you are writing to a specific person’, it can produce focused and readable work.
I’ve often questioned who that individual should be. It’s staring me in the face. The enemy has given me a gift.
It is time to write, not to against my enemy, but for him.