Posted Friday, July 1, 2011, at 11:23 AM
Marjorie, Haitians' suffering won't be worsened in any way by Mac McClelland’s excellent essay about her desire for violent sex after reporting from there. It's brave. It's free. It knowingly courts disaster. None of the rhetorical "mom jeans" (e.g., "to be fair, on the other hand, it should be pointed out that") we've all stuffed ourselves into as we've become all reasonable and mature. No biting her tongue because the fakakta idea she wants to noodle around with will enrage all the usual suspects in all the usual ways. She knows better but she does it anyway:The girl's got a set.
Without doubt, "How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD" is self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed, and grandiose, e.g., equating herself with Marines? And "You're so strong, you're so strong"? Please.That's straight outta Iowa. It's bullshit, wonderful bullshit, and I loved every minute of it. I don't really buy the therapist's role in all this. Too pat. I also think it's questionable to have set up that scene without forewarning Isaac of the gruesomeness she had planned, and him viciously punching her in the face, pillow or no, made me both recoil and roll my eyes. I just don't buy the scene she describes, let alone that it was necessary, except as art; there it succeeds with flying colors. She didn't back down. I don't suppose I'm the only non-fiction writer who fantasizes about writing fiction; I see pieces like this as being about that. This schtick will most definitely end up in her first novel, so give the kid a break. Haiti can take it.
If I follow your logic, journalists shouldn't write memoirs, which has to mean you've never read or, God forbid, enjoyed one? Learned from one? Been moved by descriptions of the suffering they witnessed and reported on? How it affected them? Or is it just that white, non-Haitian journalists aren't allowed to reminisce about Haiti?
I've added this essay to what I call my "fearlessness file" for my next go-round teaching journalism. After covering the physical dangers, I shock my students with pieces like this one, and the inevitable P.C. blowback, so as to discuss the most prevalent danger they'll face: the circular firing squad and the thought police. My advice to them is always: 'Fess up when you're wrong, pick your battles, then stand your ground.
On behalf of free thinkers and art lovers everywhere, I reserve the right to enjoy writing you'd rather I didn't. I'm as overly politicized, hypercritical, and analytic as any other neurotic journalist. I can find the race, class, or gender angle in the Santa Ana winds or high humidity. But some things, a very few things, are about art and freedom of expression, not politics. Some things are simply to be enjoyed for their decadence. This is one of them.