Member Rara Avis
I have to admit that my first reaction was to simply ignore this and hope it quickly went away. Those of you who've known me a while know that I rarely try to justify myself. I have always believed actions speak more effectively than words (strange as that may seem for a writer), and would rather be judged for what I do than what I say. But I've also tried to be open and honest with everyone here, about myself and my life, about my feelings for Passions, about the way I see things. I guess that honesty is meaningless, though, if I can't also do it when it's painful to do it.
Before we talk about Scott, let's address Brad's concerns and confusion and, in doing so, inevitably touch upon the piece that has struck such controversy. The Adult forum has never been a license for posting simply anything, without regard to content. The first few weeks it was open we deleted a poem about rape and I've never felt we made the wrong decision.
But, wait a minute! Rape has been discussed and explored in Open Poetry, a much less restricted forum. Why would one on a similar subject be deleted from Adult? Because the work didn't explore rape, it glorified it. It rewarded a hideous crime and demeaned the victims, as well as every person (man or woman) who read it. I have a tough time justifying myself when I try to judge the validity (or lack) of another person's viewpoint. Time and again, you've heard me say that Passions is based on tolerance and respect. But there is inevitably a time to draw a line in the sand and say, "This far and no farther." Exploring dark themes is one thing. Glorifying the darkness, sanctifying the darkness without regard to the consequences of darkness - that is another thing entirely. I think if you look at most books in the horror genre, from Stroud to King, you will realize that the exploration of horror usually includes an ending where horror pays the price for being horrible. Consequences matter. Without consequences, it isn't exploration. It's glorification.
The fact the piece was posted, via link, in a protected forum, with numerous and obvious disclaimers, does absolutely nothing to change the nature of the piece. The courts have decreed that if you electrify your front door, post big signs saying it's electrified, and someone nonetheless grabs hold of that sparkling doorknob - you are culpable for murder. While I don't want to compare a work of fiction to murder, the similarity remains: you cannot "warn away" the responsibility for your own actions.
I think Scott made a bad judgment call in posting the piece. Much as many of us have done from time to time, I suspect. Now, there are only two other people in this whole forum that are going to completely understand this, but there was a time six or seven months ago when one of the most esteemed and respected poets at Passions made a similar judgment call. They posted a poem, in a different forum but one also affiliated with Passions, under a different user name than they use here, that elicited an immediate outrage from many readers. I am not comparing that work with this one (for they are surely not the same), but I am comparing the situation. That unnamed poet, who always show good taste and judgement (and immense talent), immediately withdrew the misunderstood poem, realizing he had made a mistake in judging the audience. We all make mistakes.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time this or similar mistakes have been made. The last such incident, occurring the first week in September, prompted me to write Scott a fairly long letter detailing my concerns. I'm going to share just a small portion of that letter, because I think it - more than anything else I can say - explains the decision I had to make tonight.
Scott, you've made some tremendous contributions to the community, not the least of which is your talent and insight with the written word. You're certainly as much a member of the family as anyone else at Passions. But you're also more than a family member, now, you're a Moderator. Whether it's your intention or not, you speak with the voice of Passions when you speak, and your words and actions reflect on me and your fellow Moderators. Passions has become a family, and families have disagreements. But the leaders of that family, the Moderators, are a team, a unity, the nucleus around which all else revolves.
I did not ask Scott to resign tonight in some misguided attempt to "punish" him for making a mistake. My request was not a response to outrage by others, nor was it a shot out of the proverbial blue. I asked him to resign because, repeatedly, his views, actions, and judgements are in direct conflict with what I perceive to be those of Passions. It came only after attempting to reconcile that conflict. And I'm more sorry than any of you will ever realize that it had to be done.
Now, having explained my viewpoint, I want to add that I have no intention of saying much beyond what's already been said. I won't discuss the merits of the story, nor do I want to linger over what's been a very difficult decision. But as long as we're being so open and honest today, there is something else, something not unrelated, that I'd like to touch upon.
Scott has made some mistakes in the past several months. Some of those, I think, were fairly serious lapses in judgment. But as I've tried to indicate, we all make mistakes. We're human. I may have found fault with Scott's judgement on occasion, but I have never found fault with his heart. He cares about this art and craft we all pursue, even when his words don't always reflect that. He cares about Passions, even when his views don't always coincide with those of Passions. And he care about people, too, I think, even when his own anger and bitterness cause him to react as if it were otherwise. I try to never give advice unless someone asks for it, but as his friend, I hope I can say that I hope Scott one day realizes his bitterness is not his friend.
But that's not the something I wanted to talk about. As Scott has made mistakes, he has also made enemies. And that's the something I want to talk about.
One of the things a writer has to learn is that there are no villains in this world, and we make a serious mistake if we allow them to creep into our prose and poetry. There are no villains, only antagonists - because no matter what a person says or does, they always feel they are justified. Do you really think that even Hitler, that most infamous of horrors, got out of bed in the morning, looked in the mirror and said, "Gee, there's the face of a true villain?" Hitler, like every other person in this world that hates, truly believed his hatred was justified.
Over the course of several months I have seen repeated attacks on Scott's posts not simply because of content, but simply because they were Scott's posts. You can tell the difference, and so can I, especially when those attacks always seem to stem from the same sources. Similar posts, from other people, have gone unmolested. I've received email, time and again, from people along similar themes. Scott has not just attracted enemies, but enemies with vehemence.
Don't misunderstand me: I'm not suggesting people shouldn't make judgements about what they deem acceptable or not acceptable. I'm not suggesting people should remain silent having made those judgements. On the contrary, I firmly believe it is every person's responsibility to denounce what they perceive as contrary to their own set of values. Silence is just another tool of apathy.
But that hasn't always been what I've seen. Attacks based on values are consistent, not targeted. I have seen only a handful of responsible people speaking out against something they believe. Instead, I've seen far too many enemies, whose attacks have largely been clouded by anger and hate. Ah, but do I hear them muttering? "The hate and the fear and the disgust have all been justified." And the words I hear being muttered aren't even spoken in German.
As long as we find reasons to hate, there will be hate. Scott's enemies, those who have attacked him in public and in private, don't get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see the face of a villain. But their hatred, justified though they may feel it is, is just one drop of the ocean that is drowning mankind's world. We are hating ourselves into oblivion, one drop at a time, one justified reason at a time. Hate a man's actions, not the man. Try to stop those actions, not destroy the man. Act out of conviction, not out of hate. If Passions is truly to be a place of tolerance and respect, there can never be room for hatred.
In parting, I'd like to commend Scott on his commitment and devotion to Passions, and on the not always easy task of building the Prose forum into what it is today. We own him our thanks for the tireless hours he has given us. Though not a Moderator, Scott will continue to be Member in good standing and will continue to post. And I hope his enemies will get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and perhaps see a slightly difference face staring back at them.