Two or three times a year, for many years, a howling mob comes after me for one thing or another. Angry and often self-righteous hostility is an endemic spawn of the Internet, and to navigate these assaults is an essential skill of the contemporary blogger and web trawler. It takes patience, perspective, experience and, if possible, some humor. It happened when I put Orson down, when I sent Elvis to slaughter, when I declined to keep the flock of old sheep on my farm, and it happened yesterday and this morning after Rocky was bitten by Simon in one of their first encounters. One person e-mailed that I was cruel, another said it was abuse to put the pony and donkeys together. The complaints became a digital mob demanding that I built a fence, separate the two for life, keep Rocky in the barn, take the donkeys to another pasture, stop being heartless and mean.
I have never liked mobs or agreed with one. These digital outbursts are curious in that they don't last long, and invariably, the angry and aggrieved people go away in a day or so, and they never return. If you check all of these enraged comments on my Facebook page today, I can promise you that not a one will be around in two weeks when Rocky and the donkeys are out grazing happily together. This is not a culture that can listen, grow, apologize or change. There is no thinking or considering, no humility or uncertainty. The whole idea is to be outraged and aggrieved, not to communicate.
I have been through this so many times that I must confess I pay little attention. It is background noise, like the traffic outside our new home. I am seeking my own truth, looking for my own strength. As Hannah Arendt wrote, the goal is self-respect, not a surrender to the ideas and demands of others. I would not make a good politician, I think.
These encounters are healthy for me and important. A good friend called me up to say she saw that I was finding my truth and telling it. This is very meaningful to me. I am not one of those many people who believe everything they do is right. I really don't know if what I am doing is right. That isn't clear for awhile. I do what feels right and good to me. My life and decisions are not arguments for other people. The self respect I seek is mine. I do not care a lot what other people think I should do, I care a lot about what I think should do. I find that is very important. I am liking the decisions I make, even as I know so many are likely to be wrong.
With animals, at least, that has worked out well for me. I take good care of them, and they have mostly done very well with me. Increasingly, people believe that animals can live in a perfect world, a paradise free of pain or challenge, that we humans can and should intervene and rescue them from every travail, discomfort or natural law and behavior. This is how thousands of poor dogs and cats end up spending their natural lives in crates – so that humans can feel good about themselves.
More significantly, and in part because of this process, I am getting clearer about my truth, drawing strength from my instincts, decisions, sense of things. And finding my strength as well.
Praise is nice, agreement comforting. Some days I feel like Frankenstein in the tower, the peasants charging up the hill. It is strange to assaulted by hostile strangers in this way, yet there is this curious thing about. It forces me, helps me, to discover my truth, and to speak it. And there is so much strength in that.