I’m a member of a forum that discusses local issues. I’m an active member; I talk a lot about a lot of things. Today someone posted something which was not only kind of stupid, it was clearly: I’m-not-racist-I’m-just-pointing-out-that-these-people-were-______ (fill in with race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion of your choice) and I called him on it. Not in so many words, but rather I asked first what the exact nature of the problem was since he was quite vague about it, and second why he felt it was necessary to tell us the race of the people involved. As I expected, he responded with hostility, but accused me of being hostile. I pointed out that I had made no value judgment, I was simply asking for information, but since he brought up the subject I said bluntly that I disliked it when people cited one of those aforementioned facts for no discernible reason. Several other people took him on as well. He has not responded.
Where are the warts? you ask. Well, I’ll tell you: I’m disappointed that he didn’t respond. Not overtly, not to the point where I’d pursue the issue without his participation, but in some hidden little part of my twisted soul I wanted a good fight tonight in which I knew I had the moral high ground. See, it rained for much of the day and because of that I hurt. My joints are achy and I have a sinus headache. I want to punch someone, if only verbally. It’s an ugly trait and I don’t like it in myself, but it exists, and I have to deal with it.
Unfortunately now I feel restless and dissatisfied, which means I have to go to bed with an a one-sided argument running through my head. My devastating retorts remain unwritten, my disdain remains unexpressed. Maybe I am hostile after all. Maybe he sensed that under what really was a perfectly reasonable request for more information I was expressing anger and trying to provoke him. Part of me is embarrassed, part is glad.
And part of me wonders if I did more harm than good, or vice versa. I’m not going to examine too closely all my motivations; it might make my headache worse. But I have to wonder if you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, is it still right? If you do it for mixed reasons — wrong and right — can you still think of yourself as a decent person?
I need aspirin and a good night’s sleep.