‘Women, poor people, people of colour, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people . . . We compete with one another. We judge one another. Sometimes we betray one another. Sometimes even within our own communities, we designate who is best suited to represent us, and who shouldn’t even be invited to the party.’ – Kerry Washington.
It was supposed to be simple. Really.
People were supposed to read a post on an identifiable affliction and then commiserate. Share experiences in the comments section. Encourage sufferers. Offer solutions. And just generally spread goodwill.
However, that wasn’t to be the case, as the readership found ways to be ugly, malignant and insensitive on such a post.
I was offline most of yesterday, and upon my return, I read and observed how the comments section boiled like a cauldron of malevolence and ill-will. As I read, I found myself getting thrown into a familiar dark place of doubts and questions, a state of vulnerability that I often find myself in when contentious situations like this arise.
And I found myself asking: Why am I doing this?
I found myself struggling to remember the whole point of this blogging venture. It couldn’t have been because of the scoring of popularity points, because the alter ego, Pink Panther, appears to be amassing detractors with each passing day. It couldn’t have been because I was seeking new friendships, because honestly, I’m not even a people person, and I feel very content with the small circle of amities I maintain around me. It couldn’t have been because of a sense of obligation to the LGBT cause, because while I totally love and respect the likes of Bisi Alimi and Kenny Badmus, I do not consider myself as brave as they are.
In the darkness of that corner, I lost sight of what the whole point of this venture is, and I asked myself: Why am I doing this?
But then, yesterday evening, I assisted a KDian, who gave me a distress call, in circumnavigating a potential kito situation. In the aftermath of the crisis averted, he called me again, and at the tail end of our conversation, he said, “… Thank you. You really truly helped me.”
Before then, another KDian, HIV Positive, who made contact following the inception of the KD Support Group, called to let me know he was doing fine, following the direction the Support Group gave him, which helped him in his journey with reconciling himself with his status.
And this morning, I woke up to an email from someone I hadn’t interacted with before. He wrote: ‘Three days after the celebration of KD’s anniversary, and KDians are already at each other’s throats. This must discourage you very much. Don’t let it. Please. Keep doing what you’re doing. Some of us appreciate it. I in particular think it’s a beautiful thing that you’re telling our stories.’
I get emails like this every now and then, all the time. And they are very useful to me, because they help me remember. In the past year, I’ve been tempted a number of times, from that dark corner of doubts and questions, to pack it all in and call it a day.
But then I remember these emails, and the people behind them, and the hopes that drive them, and I steady my resolve and keep on.
And so, after yesterday’s brouhaha, here’s what I have to say, an address to friends and foes alike.
First of all, to those who submit write-ups to me and then proceed to hound me every other day about the publications, I’ll kindly like to urge you to mine some patience. There are seven days in a week, and out of these, five days are already consigned for weekly series. That leaves just two days to publish every other write-up. I read everything I am sent, and I painstakingly work on those that need editing. And so, if I don’t respond to your emails, expressing dissension with what you’ve sent, that means you’ll get published. Harassing me won’t get it done any faster.
Secondly, and most importantly, it has become apparent that there are two great divides amongst the readership of this blog. It is my greatest desire to see a truce called amongst the individuals involved, to see differences resolved and the constant need to go for the jugular shelved.
But history has taught me that no matter how much you preach for a ceasefire, it never really happens. There will always be that grenade waiting to be launched, that mine waiting to be stepped on, and then the fires will be reignited and the contention will bubble forth again.
So, no, I’m not here to preach peace.
I’m here to state matter-of-factly, to friends and foes, that freedom of expression will only be allowed for those whose opinions are neither vitriolic, provocative nor contentious. I will start screening comments. Contrary comments posted when I’m online or not will get screened, no matter how long ago they’ve been posted. Once I see it, it’s gone. Argue intelligently. Be constructive in your criticisms. Disagree respectfully. Stretch the bounds of propriety, if you must. But once you cross the line with your opinion, it’s gone. Let me be clear: if your comment seeks to goad, attack, provoke, disparage or cast aspersions, it WILL be gone.
We don’t have to be one big happy family here. In fact, the day everyone starts acting kumbaya around here is the day I’ll start worrying about the future of the world. But I’m tired of the hate. And I won’t let it thrive anymore. From anyone.
Thirdly, to the commenter who leveled a disturbing allegation against me yesterday, I have this to say. I have a life. You have a life. And I would like to believe that we’re too busy living these lives to care for our identities beyond the blog. At least I am. And I am unbelievably tired of your constant need to make me out to be a big bad guy. I am not. I’m just a guy who loves stories, and likes having people entertained and educated by them.
Finally, I’d like to apologize to all those, silent readers and commenters, who have felt disappointment at the poor conduct in the comments section, and at me for doing nothing decisive about it. I apologize for this. The journey to the restoration of your faith in Kito Diaries is going to be an arduous one, but it’s a destination I’m determined to get to.
As long as there are a few good men willing to share their stories, fact or fiction, as long as there are a few good people out there appreciating the effort, as long as there is life and hope beats from strength to strength, Kito Diaries will keep on.