You can’t write a deeply critical piece on Obama and patiently explain that you’re a liberal. You can’t make fun of the homeless or the disabled or the flawed, and yet you also can’t bring yourself to condemn Governor Schwarzenegger’s callous slash and burn, which will hurt many people. You can’t write against a popular position and be considered anything less than a predictable contrarian. You can’t take chances. You can’t express your feelings in this foolishly rational age. For you’ll lose your precious sinecure at the newspaper.
You can’t write about certain people because they might be able to throw you some work. You can’t publicly question some of your more sensitive friends, the advertisers, or the executives. You can’t find the time to quietly encourage someone. You can’t write about the dumbass who gets the work you so desperately need simply because he has a book and you don’t. You can’t write the truth, but you always claim you stand for it. You can’t criticize your heroes or praise the noble qualities of your enemies.
You can’t reveal how men really feel about breasts or what women think of biceps. You can’t write about how much you want him and the whiff of desperation they all smelled on you after so many lonely return trips home without the ephemeral human trophies. You can’t write about the guy you fucked when she was out of town on business and how you never told him and how you fucked him again. You can’t write about the girl you knocked up and the day you called in sick to spend the day at the abortion clinic. You can’t write about your prevarications. You can’t write about how you ignored the struggling friend who needed work so that you could get ahead. You can’t write about that last atavistic impulse you have towards those with darker skin or a sexual orientation you consider peculiar, if not outright sinful. You can’t write about that one time you stepped hard on the gas and almost killed the son of a bitch, the time you didn’t hold the door open for the old woman, the night you drunkenly pissed on the man who asked you for change, and the cruel afternoon in which you told many children that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny didn’t exist simply because you were bored.
You can’t write about joy or something filling the world with so much good.
You can’t write about these things. Because it will reflect poorly on you. Because, oh dear, you’ll be judged. If only you could take a chance.
Small wonder the newspapers aren’t interesting.
Newspaper readers are some of the most censorious people on earth. Even the noblest of expressed thoughts are greeted as craven.
Where has this been learned?