Conversations with a Bigot

February 26, 2020 at 2:38 AM — I been planning to write this blog post for a long time, but it seems to have gotten stuck. So much so that I feel my current health problems of gut pain and back pain come from this same stuck place. Writing about the concept of a ‘bigot’ isn’t easy, as I found when writing a blog post looking into the origin of the word in my other blogging space. This post here is more of a personal look at the conversations with a bigot going on in my own imagination. I feel like I’ve gained an insight worth sharing with writers, but I’m unsure if I can get it across in the space of a blog post.

There’s an idea I learned long ago about what goes on in the mind of a bigot; they’re having a toxic internal conversation with an inner critic. We all have this inner critic to some extent, but with a bigot it runs amuck. The conversation becomes toxic and it wears the person down…like Gollum and Sméagol from Lord of the Rings. One way to stop the ongoing internal damnation is to make it external, to release the inner critic on someone else for a spell. For the bigot, spreading hatred and turning other people against each other gives them a break from the toxic inner conversation; their own self-hatred is forgotten for a while.

There are two approaches to dealing with this inner conversation: silence it or engage it. Methods to silence it include drugs or overwriting it with all manner of things like happy thoughts, affirmations, addictions, yoga, just about anything that changes or covers up the critical conversation. Even when people choose to engage the inner critic, say through therapy, avenues are offered for silencing it through Rx drugs or other means. Among those who choose to engage the inner conversation is the writer, and the idea is to turn the inner critic into a story-telling friend.

It feels like I’ve gotten off track from what I intended to write. Lately, it seems like my inner bigot is trying to reassert itself after I long ago made it my story-telling friend. I have these imaginary conversations with family members that devolve into arguments and hatred. This comes from revelations that rose again after my mother’s death—the archaic notion that I suffer from ‘schizophrenia’. I’ve learned over the last ten years that some of my misfortunes in life (and stigma I have faced) come from rumours purposefully spread around about me to sabotage opportunities. Yet having a real conversation about this with family wouldn’t work. Too much water under the bridge.

It’s been surprising—one might say gut-wrenching—to realize that a remnant from 1950s bigoted religious thinking might have led a family member to occasionally sabotage my life, and this gossip is still being believed. I don’t take it to heart at all. I feel sorry that they’ve let their inner bigot hold onto false notions for so long. I’m glad I lived as free a life as possible, but I lost out on getting into the Peace Corps and other jobs, or perhaps being a behind-the-scenes contributor, because of this gaslighting. Past misfortunes that blocked my path make sense now, and I’ve grateful to have had a few people break through the stigma to give me some truth. — February 26, 2020 at 4:32 AM

February 27, 2020 at 1:50 AM — The conversations I imagine devolve into arguments because there’s not any rational place for them to go. In my personal journals over the last year, I have written up more than one ‘letter’ to try to raise these issues, and each time I’ve looked my words over and thought ‘no, don’t send it; it won’t work’. I did manage to send one email, but I made the focus of that family DNA for the future generation so that they might know that craziness (at least of this type) doesn’t ‘run in the family’. Any real conversation with my generation wouldn’t work because it would be a throwback to one I tried to have about 25-30 years ago after I got my master’s degree. That one devolved into threats and innuendo against me, and I arrogantly said ‘go ahead and spread your lies’, thinking that truth would win out. Looks like it didn’t, at least not outside of myself.

With my writer mind and memory traits and journals, I can go back and reconstruct that time with a high level of accuracy, but others have overwritten this past with all kinds of rationalizations and fictions. And strangely enough, these family history rewrites are probably what fed the gossip of my so-called mental health problems, perhaps even mistaking my penname for a schizoid break, if you can believe such stupidity.

Yes, I am unusual. I learned in grad school that I have an eidetic memory and imagination, as well as a strong narrative voice. I think in pictures and dialogues, in the dialectic even. I can instantly visualize anything I imagine, and dialogues are often running in my head. My inner critic called me ‘schizophrenic’ in grad school and I confronted those ideas head on. I saw a counselor who thought I was playing him to write a thesis, and he threatened to lock me in a ward with real schizophrenics if I dared continue mocking them. I had brain scans to rule it all out, and various people told me in different ways that I had to settle for being gifted with these unusual writerly traits — not a mental illness. It’s old hat for me. I’ve been over this hundreds of times.

Getting my master’s turned my inner critic into my story-telling friend. My family clung to the old ways and didn’t come along for the ride. Their loss.

The truth is that if I suffered from ‘schizophrenia’, without help by now, I’d be living in a hole in the ground (and I’m not talking hiking Grand Canyon). Despite not manifesting my dreams, I like myself and life. Yet right now I’m struggling with an inner dialogue that goes toxic. These imaginary conversations keep bringing me back to two things. I feel sorrow for people who see creativity and craziness as coming from the same wellspring because as I proved in my master’s thesis, it’s not true. It’s so retro, thirty years gone.

The other thing that gets me is wondering why no one had the ‘schizophrenia’ conversation with me. What if I actually did have schizophrenia? Did they have no obligation to make sure I was okay? They told others but never discussed it with me…? Was I not worth some pity or caring or solace? If that’s not bigotry, than what would you call it? — February 27, 2020 at 2:58 AM

February 28, 2020 at 2:40 AM — Don’t get me wrong. I am not at loggerheads with folks from my family. We haven’t had the conversations, and I’m not saying they are bigots. I’m the one having imaginary conversations with a bigot, and the bigot presents in the form of conversations with siblings. But I’m smart enough to know with my writer education that these are fictional dialogues—my mind working things out to get to some kind of truth or deeper understanding. If we tried to have a real conversation, they would overwrite what I said with their prejudices and archaic notions. I suppose I would be doing the same to them. We don’t know each other.

We can communicate on trite things, but when it comes to my degree and my creative traits, never a word is said. They’re all bureaucrats and business-minded people who don’t ‘get’ the arts or the artist among them. I’m the most educated person among my siblings, the only one with a master of arts degree, and it’s never really been a topic of discussion. But now I learn there’s been ongoing gaslighting behind my back. Perhaps the gossipers actually believe their fictional version of me at this point, projecting their own fears of mental frailty upon me. As I wrote in my book, I am the keeper of the craziness for my family.

I shine my inner light and they see their shadow, and I’m to blame. What a waste of a good light. — February 28, 2020 at 4:11 AM

February 29, 2020 at 2:40 AM — So it looks like I finally get through all this and post it on leap day 2020. Considering these ideas here leap around and there are themes in my book about taking a flying leap into Grand Canyon, this feels apropos of nothing. I used to write these kind of more personal blogs when I was younger, working through my blocks on my way to something greater. Something that never manifested beyond the fingers of my hands clacking into a keyboard.

I had some notion back then that I was bringing the arts from my Irish side back into my family. My Mom graduated college in the 1950s and taught English and worked at the USGS before getting married, and her mother worked in the War Department during World War One as a secretary who sometimes wrote poems for the troops. They were both women of letters, I guess you could say. There always seemed to be this special connection between me and my mother, we were caretakers of gentler ways lost to World Wars, waiting for the right time to bring them back without triggering stigma and bigotry.

I’ve been looking over all those old ideas, trying to get them out there into a world that wouldn’t want them or get them. It’s a vanity exercise. My last word on bigotry is that I wonder if we hide it away to respect our mothers, and now that mine has passed I need to realign myself. I think of our last parting while the priest came to the house and I was on my way out, she gently took my hand and kissed it. And it felt like just me and her against the world, a world that never really saw our inner lights. — February 29, 2020 at 3:12 AM

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