It seems that I’ve dragged the mighty Chico News & Review from its lofty position in the pantheon of Chico’s assets to something unworthy to burn as fuel. That’s quite a distance.
One reader has read only three of these columns and has been embarrassed each time on my behalf (”Unfit for fire; brimstone,” Letters, CN&R, Oct. 4). That’s just as well, because I’m seldom embarrassed personally. My sons usually take care of that sort of thing for me. Along with being embarrassed by me, they simply include the proper amount of embarrassment for me. That way I don’t have to bother examining my behavior and words for embarrassment opportunities, of which there’s apparently an ample supply.
The reader in question claimed to “have rarely been this turned off by an author,” and I have no reason to doubt her. Still, perhaps in disbelief, perhaps in the spirit of dogged scientific inquiry and a sense of fair play, she read three columns, although each time she was embarrassed for me. I’m touched, because she doesn’t even know me and yet her compassion and concern caused her to suffer embarrassment. At least I suppose she suffered. She was also embarrassed for the various people and groups I discussed, at least some of whom she also doesn’t know.
She mentions in her letter that I wrote about my inability to have intimate relationships, which is obviously incorrect. I am too able to have intimate relationships, sometimes in rapid succession! So there.
This reader is also embarrassed that “newcomers and nonresidents would see this writing as a representation of the intelligence of this locale.” This particular embarrassment is optional. I have mentioned more than once that I’m not from around here, I just live here, and I see no reason for anybody, even wide-eyed newcomers and nonresidents, to think of me as representative of anything, since I’m not.
I thought at first that she was embarrassed that the women of Chico hadn’t objected to “this aberrancy of an author” (me). Then I reread the sentence in question and realized that she’s actually embarrassed “to think that the women in Chico would not speak out against this aberrancy of an author [still me] in our community.” Not only is she embarrassed for me, the humans I talk about and anybody else who gets too close, she’s embarrassed by her thoughts. That’s commitment.
So generally, I stand in awe of this reader, and at some distance away. At that remove, I have one quibble.
She says, “In these few columns, he has defiled teachers, children and dogs.” With that, she goes too far.
I think of public school teachers as primarily government functionaries who indoctrinate children into the approved mode of thought. Yes. And I think children are no better or worse and no more worthy of kindness than any other group.
But let the record show that I’ve not defiled a dog since the 1950s, and I’d appreciate it if people would just give it a rest and get on with their lives.