A Demon of My Very Own

I've been thinking about it, and I'm not sure my husband and son were entirely right in suggesting that my reader PapaFreeak is simply a common or garden-variety troll.  Consider the comments that he has left me over the past several months.

First, there was one on my thoughts about how I feel uncomfortable at times saying "Merry Christmas":
Do you really believe that you are prevented from wishing people Merry Christmas? Really?

How about one of these options:

Option A:-Wish people Merry Christmas. If they respond positively (as 99% of them likely will) then all is well. If they respond negatively, then you can still feel that you acted according to your own conscience. It isn't exactly a martyr's torment and death to do so.

-Option B:- Why not take it one step farther? Why not say, to everyone you meet, "Merry Christmas! And if you celebrate some other holiday, I *don't* wish you any happiness at all. If you don't celebrate Christmas, then you must not be a Christian, and therefore my God will condemn you to roast in Hell for all eternity! Given these realities, why should I wish you any happiness at all?"

Option A seems to me the saner one.
Here, he immediately sets out to make me feel like my anxieties over offending others are a) silly or b) clear evidence that I would wish others damned to hell.  Such insinuations are devilishly difficult to answer, because if I choose Option A, I am clearly thinking too much of myself in worrying about how others are going to respond to my greeting, while if I choose Option B, I fall immediately into the (fictional) camp of "Christians who really want to see everyone else damned."  Damned if I do, damned if I don't.  When I answered him there that, yes, I do feel uncomfortable greeting people with "Merry Christmas" when I don't know whether they think of themselves as Christian, he replied (quoting me):
"But if saying 'Merry Christmas' were as neutral as you suggest, why can't we say it publically in our shops and schools and streets anymore?"

You *can.* I am not aware of a single law on the books in any legislative district that outlaws wishing others "Merry Christmas!" as loudly and as publicly as you like. Nor is there any kind of trend or major news story about persons being harmed for so doing. Stating that you *cannot* wish friends, colleagues, and neighbors a Merry Christmas is both incorrect and rather silly. You are inventing a form of oppression that exists entirely in your head, and then attempting to project it outward onto "our secularized society."

News flash: we are not secular*ized* -- a construction that suggests we have changed over time and become secular, when we once were not. This nation was founded on two principles (among others) which you seem to want to ignore: separation of Church and State, and the right to Free Speech. You may deplore the former, but it is not new. You seem unwilling to exercise the latter, but then blame others for your mild discomfort around this fact. 
Again, it's all in my head (which, as I answered him, was precisely my point: I feel uncomfortable), which is silly, because there is no law against making such greetings.  This is clever because, indeed, we have no laws (at the moment) that prevent us from saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah" or "Allahu Akbar" (although there are the regular kerfuffles about where we can put up nativity scenes and Christmas trees)--but this does not mean that some of us do not find it difficult to say these things when we are in public.  But, again, the point here is to make sure that I begin doubting myself for having the feelings that I do.  Also note how he says I "blame others" for my mild discomfort, utterly ignoring the fact that in my original post, all of my "blaming" came in the quotation of what I in my humbuggery wanted to say, but didn't.  Classic debating tactics, to which I, in my innocence, quickly succumbed.

Then there is his next contribution to my anxieties, when I was trying to make sense of why it seems so difficult for either side of my family to get together more than once in a blue moon:
The University of Chicago apparently is one of the top paid universities in the country. Your husband also works full time at a major cultural institution. You have one kid. Why not travel a little -- your poverty surely cannot be that severe.
Once again, he deftly targets my anxiety (that I don't make enough effort to spend time with my family) by making sure that I know it is my fault, when the whole point of my post was to suggest that, in fact, it was nobody's fault, just the way things seem to be.  This is not the work of a troll; it is simply too clever.

Then there was yesterday's comment on my musings about writing for a more public audience:
I've noticed you, but I find about 75% of what you post to be odious. This is why I return: I don't understand why someone with your advantages -- intelligence, health, a supportive family, good income from meaningful work in a prestigious job -- is so astoundingly petty, envious, and self-pitying. I think you fascinate me because you provide access to a mentality that is genuinely foreign to me.
This one was his best one yet, hitting absolutely all of my buttons.  I am going to be hugging his description of me to my chest for days, it is so apt.  "Petty, envious, and self-pitying"--I hear this is my head all the time!!!!  It's as if he lives there, right inside of me, whispering to me what a sniveling, ungrateful wretch I am for not being able to see how good I have it.  How did he know that I have had such struggles with envy, when all the time I thought that my deadliest sin was pride?  How did he know how I wish that I could get out of my head and do something more meaningful with my life than just sitting around thinking about prayer, as opposed to saving the world or, at the very least, discovering a cure for cancer like some of my friends?  How did he know that I am sick to death of having such anxieties surrounding my writing and research and wish that I could just stick it out there, oblivious to what others think?

It's uncanny.  It's as if he is right in there with me, knowing exactly what to say to drive me to despair.  So, of course, I've looked him up, wondering who he possibly could be, who knows me so well.  And you know what?  He's only had this blogger identity since December 2012, i.e. since he left the first comment for me.  And it's only been viewed, get this, 12 times--all of them, I rather suspect, me, wondering whether he had ever written anything that I might read so as to get a better idea of who he is.  But--and this is important--he only exists here, in my blog comments!  Which means, you guessed it, he isn't real, he's only a voice in my head.

I don't need a troll-hunter.  I need an exorcist.


  1. I came here from unauthorizedmedievalhistory blog and I must inform you that there is one place where you are not supposed to wish someone 'Merry Christmas.'

    When you are at the Dickens Fair in San Francisco, an indoor set-up modeled as a Victorian city in the time of Charles Dickens where it is always Christmas Eve, you are requested to wish everyone a 'Happy Christmas!'

    All the shopkeepers and tea-servers and special characters are well schooled in proper Happy Christmas Wishing.


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog post. I look forward to hearing what you think!


Popular posts from this blog

Credo ut intelligam

Make the Middle Ages Dark Again

Nation, American Style

Talking Points: Three Cheers for White Men

Wisdom and Folly at the Forge of Tolkien (plus Milo!)