I’m going to be playing catchup over the next couple blog posts. I blame the government.
Life the Universe and Everything was as good as ever from the point of view of the attendees. The only exception, of course, was their arbitrary rule that I can’t do my Plot a Novel in an Hour presentation two years in a row. :) Always a crowd pleaser.
But seriously, I had many great compliments from the attendees. At least as many as normal, maybe more. We had a reunion of Writers of the Future Winners and felt like old times and I took a few of the people who were submitting out to dinner after so they could pick the brains of me and Brian Hailes. I made some connections, including a new gaming buddy who I won’t name for their privacy until I have permission, but they are new to gaming and a gaming savant. All in all, a very successful symposium.
However, on the professional end, things were very different. Not necessarily different in a bad way.
You see several local people and guests were recently named in the #metoo movement. This colored every interaction we had. I want to stress that I don’t think that any of this was bad (the coloring and the naming, not the acts that needed to be named…those were very bad). Most of the people I know who were named gave what seemed to be very heartfelt and well-thought-out apologies. (I’m probably not qualified to judge). At least one of them is a very different person now than the person who did those things. None of that, of course, is an excuse or gets them off the hook. With one exception, where the two accusations seem to have been revoked, these accusations are real. The damage done was real. Nothing that happens now can undo that.
But as someone who hasn’t been named, I want to talk about apologies and the power of them. I spoke to one woman at the symposium who will remain nameless, who was the target of harassment by one of the people named. Nothing he does now can change that, but she told me that his apology meant a lot to her. She’d been dreading going to the symposium and seeing him this year, and his apology, well-worded and very sincere, had taken a great weight off her shoulders. I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but I could tell that it had meant a great deal to her, where a less-than-genuine apology would probably have made matters worse (at least for the “insulting” values of worse).
I, of course, asked her if I’d ever done anything to make her uncomfortable or to hurt her. I knew what her answer would be before she said it because she and I had a fight some time ago, and I know that how she perceived the fight and how I perceived the fight were different. And that’s no excuse. I made her feel gendered during the fight, and it mattered not one wit if I felt justified in the moment. There’s no justification for that. Ever. The whole point of being a human being in a civilization is to try to see things from the point of view of the other human beings in the same civilization and to not shit on them. It’s never okay to make them feel like you think of them as “lesser”. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t think of them like that. It doesn’t matter if you were really mad when you did it. It doesn’t matter if it was an accident. None of that matters. You own your actions. Wait, that was too distanced. Let me rephrase. I own my actions. I made her feel like I thought she was lesser because of her gender. I made her feel patronized. If that sounds like weasel language, let me take another run at that. I patronized her. I did that. Nothing else matters.
I apologized to her there in the green room. But just in case I didn’t do it well enough, I’m apologizing again. There was no excuse. That was entirely my fault. I should never have done that. It’s my responsibility to be a better person than that. You have made me a better person by calling me out on it. So I am sorry. And I am grateful. I don’t deserve the grace you showed me, after the fact. I am sorry. Thank you for being the person that you are.
LTUE was a time of self-reflection for all of us. My personality has a splash radius. I’m aware of that. I am fortunate that this is the only incident I’ve been accused of. I’m sure I’ve hurt others. If any of you read this, I apologize to you as well. I’m sure you have treated me far better than I deserve.
But we aren’t good people, if we are actually good people, by getting things right the first time. If I somehow achieve the goal of being a good person, it’s because I screw up and try again. And because others are gracious enough to give me a second chance.
But of course, most of the attendees probably saw none of that. To them, it was just a great symposium. I might not always be sure I’m the person I want to be, but I can be sure that we’re all professional when we need to be. All of this?
That’s what the green room is for.
The column will continue soon...Stay tuned for new installments!