Journalistic Envy


I thoroughly enjoyed this article by Conor Friedersdorf featured in The Atlantic: Should Mom-and-Pops That Forgo Gay Weddings Be Destroyed? The attack on Memories Pizza and its implications. I found it well formulated, balanced and intelligent. 

Social commentary aside, looking at this from the perspective of writing – the mechanics of writing, the processing of writing, and the emotion of writing – I read articles like this and I think, “Yes!  Now, why didn’t I think of that?”  When I find pieces that seem to express what my own perspective would be had I taken the time to actually formulate what my perspective would be, I usually end up feeling validated…and also guilty, envious and inadequate all at the same time.

Guilty that I haven’t spent more time thinking or reading about the issues being discussed with such fervor, but envious of the writer’s talent and skill.  Consider Friedersdorf’s intro:

“What do white evangelicals, Muslims, Mormons, blacks, conservative Republicans, and immigrants from Africa, South America, and Central America all have in common? They’re less likely to support gay marriage than the average Californian. Over the years, I’ve patronized restaurants owned by members of all those groups. Today, if I went out into Greater Los Angeles and chatted up owners of mom-and-pop restaurants, I’d sooner or later find one who would decline to cater a gay wedding. The owners might be members of Rick Warren’s church in Orange County. Or a family of immigrants in Little Ethiopia or on Olvera Street. Or a single black man or woman in Carson or Inglewood or El Segundo.

Should we destroy their livelihoods?”

For me, this intro accomplished the only goal an introductory passage has, which is to get the reader to keep reading.  In order to do this, it has to be engaging & provocative, but not so polarizing that the reader is offended or turned off.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who read this and thought, “Well, no, Conor…I don’t think we should destroy their livelihoods…but I will surely keep reading to see what you think.”

In supporting a position or cause, Friedersdorf insists that “respectful critique and persuasion is more effective than shaming.” Yeah, that.  Duh.  Eloquently stated, Conor!  Specific to Memories Pizza and the religious freedom legislation in Indiana, Friedersdorf quoted Matt Welch:

“The pizzeria discriminated against nobody,” Welch wrote, “merely said that it would choose not to serve a gay wedding if asked. Which it never, ever would be, because who asks a small-town pizzeria to cater a heterosexual wedding, let alone a gay one?” They were punished for “expressing a disfavored opinion to a reporter.”

Who asks a small-town pizzeria to cater a heterosexual wedding, let alone a gay one?  Touche, Matt!  That line made me chuckle, but wasn’t so distracting that I lost my train of thought or stopped reading – a guffaw would have distracted me.  A witty & clever zinger but not insulting and still on point.

But here’s the thing…if I didn’t have guys like Conor Friedersdorf helping me by filling in the blanks with their sophisticated words, I would have summed up the entire “should we destroy their livelihoods” debate with a single proverb that was often heard in my house growing up: two wrongs don’t make a right.  At the end of the day, isn’t that the point of all 2,316 words Friedersdorf wrote?  To the shop owner – you are wrong-minded in your discrimination…and to the digital mob threatening to burn down his shop – you are equally wrong-minded in your notion of appropriate reparations.  Ironic, isn’t it, considering both parties are so certain they are on solid moral ground?

Maybe that’s my niche.  Maybe I should stop trying to be the girl who works so hard to put together the correct words in the correct sequence – arranging and rearranging them over and over like flowers in a vase – so that others will read them and be left awestruck.  Maybe I need to stop trying so hard to write like the writers that I admire most.  Maybe I could learn to be ok with being the girl who says, “Hey jackass, two wrongs don’t make a right!  So stop discriminating against anyone for anything…and as for burning shit down…you should probably talk to someone about that.”