Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 REO Speedwagon “Take It On The Run”
 Thomas Newman “Dead Already”
Of all the 200,000 or so words in the English language, one I’ve never greatly cared for is “judgement”. It’s all too easy to form our opinions based on precious little actual intelligence or from hearing only one side of the story. While we’re all culpable of this at one time or another, I make a conscious effort not to fall into this trap as I don’t believe it’s my place or duty to cast judgement on another. I get that we all have a right to express our opinions and freedom of speech is something I’m more than happy to endorse. But at what cost? Defamation of character? Hey, if that’s how you wish to exert your energy then knock yourselves out and good luck on that higher ground as you’re sitting ducks way up there. As for me, well I’m far more comfortable with building folk up than I am knocking them down and flat refuse to take part in any kind of witch hunt whatsoever.
Social networks have made it easier than ever before to express ourselves freely and more and more people are subscribing every day to what can be a rather splendid tool of communication, when utilized correctly. Being a writer by trade, I see the numerous benefits of this platform. Twitter has always been my poison of choice as it allows for greater connectivity and to a much wider audience than any other social network, in my opinion. Sure it’s not perfect, indeed that pesky blue bird continues to infuriate me on pretty much a daily basis, like it secretly has it in for me. But I’d be first to admit that I’d be hopelessly lost without it. Thus I place all my eggs in this basket and generally feel justified in that decision.
Naturally there are always going to be a few rotten eggs in the box as it is essentially a larger scale version of the school yard. Trollers are gonna troll, bullies are gonna loiter with intent, and those 140 character smackdowns are gonna be dished out by people with far too much spare time on their hands. It all depends on the nature of the beasts who opt for Twitter as their chosen stomping ground. Personally I’ve had only the most miniscule experience of ill communication and steer my vessel away from the rocks at very first sighting. Conflict never interested me in the slightest, you see. This isn’t on account of some deep-rooted childhood trauma; quite the opposite in fact. I simply don’t much care for it a great deal is all.
My mother often remarks that I’m the most placid person she knows and also the least judgmental. While clearly she’s a tad biased, I’m not about to disagree with her as I happen to think she’s onto something there. I make a conscious effort not to slip on the cunningly placed banana skins laid out by the media, provide viewpoints from a place of impartiality wherever possible, and decline to play magistrate on matters that I’m not fully versed upon. It’s not that I don’t possess an opinion and voice of my own; more that I’d rather use it to educate than desecrate. There are multiple sides to any story and often only one is accessible. How can I possibly form a judgement without all the facts at my disposal? I can try but it’ll likely be skewed, quite possibly wholly inaccurate, and open itself to all kinds of misinterpretation.
Remember Chinese whispers from back in the day? In this popular children’s game, information is ferried along a line by way of hushed recital from one player to the next, eventually arriving at the last in line and designated spokesperson. The closing statement is then compared to the original, often with hilarious results. Naturally errors are going to occur during transit and there’s usually at least one rogue link in the chain looking to deliberately alter said message for dramatic effect. But there’s also a valuable lesson to be gleaned about the carelessness of whispers and the manner in which gossip can be spread. This is affectionately referred to as the “grapevine” and I cannot help but wonder how Marvin Gaye knew ’bout such plans to make us blue.
Almost half a century later and the grapes of wrath have accounted for many a social scalp. The media’s glare is more unforgiving than ever before, every asshole in a Wi-Fi hotspot has an opinion, and suddenly it’s Chinese whispers all over again. Tell me I’m not the only one who finds this all vaguely depressing. Let’s not muzzle the mumbler here, I happen to find the grapevine a rather splendid source of intellectual nutrients when in small enough doses. But not once the harvester of sorrow comes trundling in, mincing its blades of scorn. Some call it hearsay, others tittle-tattle; whereas I call the majority of it unfounded and simply ain’t got time for no jibber-jabber. The very last act I wish to partake in is pissing on a passing snowball as some poor bastard further down the line has to roll that shit back up to the summit.
I’ve had to contend with slurs being made against my character on the odd occasion and know just how exasperating that can be to endure. My best defense in such instances has been to politely recline as few prospects disinterest me more than public slanging matches. By not piping up to fight my corner, certain parties may well misread my silence as an admission of guilt and I’m as comfortable with that as one can be when it results in being judged unjustly. You see, those who know me well enough won’t see fit to entertain such slander in the first places and, those who do, clearly didn’t know me to start with. I’m not about to suggest this process to be anything less than soul-destroying as it’s no fun being branded a pariah when you don’t feel it’s justified in the slightest. But fighting for one’s right to party just takes so much bloody strength; when I’d much prefer we just skip to the celebrations.
Anyroad, I believe it’s high time I come clean about the true reasoning behind this rant and appreciate this may well make me a target for the grapevine myself as it regards a fast-developing news story that many have already formed an opinion on. This is a decidedly dicey endeavor as I stand to alienate a fair wedge of my readership in one fell swoop, should I fail to select my words correctly. However, I feel I have something to interject that could potentially empower those who’ve made up their minds already not to be quite so hasty with their damning indictments and simply have to take that shot. This isn’t about taking sides, indeed it’s actually precisely the opposite. It’s about the ancient art of not feeling obligated to.
My case in point is the recent allegation made against American actor, Kevin Spacey, which I’m fairly certain I don’t need to spell out any further. This thunderbolt came to light barely 24 hours ago and I’m quite aware how sensitive its subject matter is amidst recent revelations. Hollywood is still reeling from the whole sordid Harvey Weinstein affair and, as per expectation, the ripples are being felt far and wide. While the sleeping cancer in the industry evidently needs addressing and pronto, this is wretched news for Spacey as his entire career and good name have been pretty much terminally soiled overnight. Almost immediately, Netflix pulled the plug on its highly popular long-running series, House of Cards, and it’s only a matter of time before others follow suit and wash their hands of the leper in the room. Meanwhile, social media has become ablaze with fierce speculation and painfully predictable snap judgments have followed.
As I already mentioned, the last thing I’m looking to do here is to take to task those who may have added fuel to this particular fire. I’d much rather appeal to their sense of reason; request that they consider the wider implications of such actions. You see, I’d bet a pair of sixes that Kevin Spacey is not the calculated deviant he is being fitted up as and still feel confident of strengthening my chip stack come the verdict, regardless of what the media might deem that to be. Now I’m not suggesting the claim made against him to be bogus for one second. On the contrary, Spacey himself admits that he may have acted inappropriately and was quick to pin a public letter of apology to his Twitter account. While that doesn’t excuse his actions in the slightest, I don’t feel I’m in any position to condemn a man I have always held in lofty esteem the very moment the wolves of the media sink their teeth into his rump.
The last time I checked it was innocent until proven guilty right? What happened? Did the court adjourn while I was busy in the restroom fingering my asshole? Nowadays it’s more a case of guilty as sin until bankrupt or emotionally broken. I’m not aware of all the facts in this particular case but I am mindful of Chinese whispers and how swiftly fiction can get tossed into the mix for effect. Before you know it, he’s made out to be some hunched over drooling half-man with hairy knuckles and eyebrows that meet in the middle. Kevin Spacey? A fearsome sexual predator who preys on young innocents? I’m sorry but I’m not buying that description for a solitary second. Unless a number of others come forward with similar grievances in the coming weeks; I’ll be putting it down to a horribly misjudged drunken pass that should absolutely never have happened. That’s just me and, like everyone else, I’m entitled to my own opinion.
There’s a reason why Spacey collected a much-deserved Oscar for his extraordinary turn as Lester Burnham in American Beauty that far outreaches the performance itself. You see, screenwriter Alan Ball wrote a character with as many flaws as pores and eschewed black and white for those far more insightful shades of grey that exist in all of us. As a direct result, we genuinely cared for Lester regardless of some fairly glaring shortcomings. I’d hazard a guess that an hour spent in Kevin Spacey’s company would result in genuinely caring for him too. The two really aren’t that dissimilar when you think about it. To those who have already made their mind up about the accused, my proposal is this. Watch American Beauty and, should you already know Sam Mendes’ film well, then perhaps now would be the time for a swift and decidedly topical refresher. Tell you what, I’ll do the same. And do you know one thing I can guarantee? I’ll be shedding the same single tear come the end as I always do.
Mine is not and never will be to judge. Neither is it mine to judge those who adjudge others. That would make me every bit as judgmental and I’m far more inclined to veer more towards plain mental thanks as it appears a far better fit. Thus unless the dreaded jury service summons arrives in the foreseeable, I’ll leave any careless whispers to some other pair of guilty feet and continue to work on a more upbeat rhythm as per my original mandate. At any rate, I hear The Almighty is already building watertight cases against us all as we speak and appears to have a far better vantage of what really goes on behind closed doors than mortal man could ever aspire to. By my estimations, that frees me up to continue with my favorite pastime – living and letting others do precisely the same. Court dismissed. Was it ever really in session?
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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