I initially submitted a different column than the one you're reading now.
For a variety of reasons, I contacted the paper on Monday and asked them to pull the column. They graciously complied, even though I can imagine what that does to the already-busy people who are working up to a deadline.
Anyway, I'm glad I pulled that column back. I wrote it in a reactionary mode, and I didn't even realize that I was stuck in it. I was certain that I had a correct (and potentially humorous) read on the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki.
"Writing While Mad," like drunk driving, is a losing proposition. You might feel better for awhile, and if you're really, really lucky, you won't hurt anyone. But the price can be huge if things don't go as planned. Riled up anger or maybe deeper divisiveness from Mad Writing, and death or serious injury with drunk driving.
One exception to the rule against Writing While Mad: if the writing is just a way of getting something out of your system and you have no plans to put the writing out there, it's probably therapeutic to write away. And then either put it in some kind of notebook or journal, or put it through the shredder.
I was kind of spellbound by Donald Trump after watching him in the joint press conference and then again in the White House 24 hours later, reading a script that said he had meant to use the word "wouldn't" when he used the phrase "would."
So I took the bait. It was just too rich a target and I decided to go for it.
After I had submitted the column, I felt good. But that feeling was coming from that angry guy inside me.
Then a couple of friends with whom I had shared a draft of the column made it a point to express their surprise at its tone.
What? I thought. Don't they get it?
But upon reflection, I was the one who didn't get it. I had succumbed all too easily to a mentality that says "I know I'm right!" And self-certainty like that, fueled by anger, can do damage. Tear people further apart.
So instead of a sarcastic column from one of my internal characters I don't trust, you get this column, coming from one of my characters I do trust. One who isn't angry.
Here are some questions I'm pondering for myself — while looking right in the mirror. Maybe you might want to try this too.
1. Have I been affected, or maybe worse, "infected" by the incredible rudeness that has been on display for what seems like a long time now? Am I capable of being pulled down into the gutter without ever having made a decision to do so? Well yes, because that's pretty much what happened here. I had written column which could only be read as divisive and mean-spirited toward certain people. The infection had spread, I didn't recognize it, and it took two friends to point it out to me. (How did I know they were on to something? Because the instant I took in their input, something inside me relaxed. Empirical?)
2. On the other hand, what does a concerned citizen do when things seem off-track? Sitting on your hands can't possibly be the answer. How does a person respond, with skill and effectiveness, when confronted by the fighting, the anger that permeates our dialogue?
3. Whatever the response, where is it coming from inside me? I want to know the answer to that question and I it to be from my "better angel.s. I know who they are.
My bet is that we all share some of the same ones, those angels.