I have come to accept that there will always be someone in the world who does not like my work or my characters, and I have learned to get past a review I feel is not favorable. It's all a part of being a writer, taking the bad with the good, seeing if I can learn something from it, hitching up my big girl pants and moving along, right?
But what about when someone responds to a blog in an unfavorable manner? What if they misquote, misinterpret, and mischaracterize what I've said, and then post a negative comment to that effect? At that point, the opinion is no longer about my writing, but about me as a person. Is it better to respond and defend, or to ignore the reply and hope that the rest of my audience will realize the comment is not actually responsive to what I've written?
Do I engage in fight or flight?
I had to answer just such a question today, when someone commented on a blog I wrote about police officers prosecuted for crimes committed during hurricane Katrina. It seems as if I must have pressed one of my reader's buttons, because he twisted everything I said and make assumptions about me that I couldn't believe when he posted his response.
The gist of my post was that two of the cops accused in a Katrina related case were friends of mine. Three other cops whom I don't know were charged, one with shooting a suspected looter during Katrina, one with setting a car on fire with the looter's dead body in it, and the third with being the ranking officer who didn't properly investigate it. The shooter was found guilty by a federal jury of manslaughter; the burner was found guilty of obstruction of justice and destroying a corpse or something in that vein. The rank was found not guilty.
One of my friends was present when the cop set the car on fire, and did nothing, even though he is a ranking officer. He was acquitted. I would not have been surprised had he been convicted. I was also not surprised to hear that he was accused of doing it.
My second friend was charged with falsifying a police report and lying to a grand jury, both done months after the shooting. He was convicted of both.
The shooter freely admitted he shot the looter, but claimed extenuating circumstances; the officer that burned the body admitted he burned the body, but also claimed extenuating circumstances. All of the extenuating circumstances were related to Katrina.
The ranking officer who stood by and did nothing admitted he stood by and did nothing but the jury did not believe he committed a crime. So for these three, the main facts were pretty much undisputed and it was up to the jury to determine the minor facts and intent of the officers involved.
The other two officers, both ranking officers, argued that they had not done what the government charged them with. The one boss argued he was unaware that the murdered looter was the same body burned in the car, and that he had no reason to know of the connection based upon the information given to him. The jury believed him.
My friend argued that he was asked by a female officer to assist with a police report because she was too stressed out to do it, and that he followed her instructions. It is undisputed that he had no direct knowledge of, nor was he present for, the shooting or the burning. The government asserted that he lied on the police report, and also lied to a federal grand jury and to federal officers to assist with the cover up of the crime. The female officer testified against him, and said she did not write the part in the report that cleared the other officers, and she did not know what happened to the original report she did write. She also admitted she lied to the grand jury, but was not prosecuted for it in exchange for her testimony. She took early retirement the day after she testified. My friend was found guilty of falsifying a police report and lying to a grand jury, and is awaiting sentencing. Most people, including the political analysts, were surprised he was found guilty as charged on both counts.
The officer who shot the victim and the officer who burned his body were both convicted and will serve time. Justice may not be perfect, but it was served in this case.
I posted this information and the fact that it bothers me to write about it, because my friend is involved. I find it difficult to believe he would falsify official documents, but it doesn't matter what I think because he was convicted. On the other hand, the victim's family is quite vocal that they feel cheated that all five officers weren't convicted of the harshest crimes possible.
My point was that we have the best justice system in the world, and just because it didn't work out the way I wanted it to or the victim's family wanted it to doesn't mean it doesn't work. I learned this lesson nearly every day as a N.O. prosecutor and continue to learn it as a Louisiana public defender. Justice isn't always fair and victims do not always get the justice they think they deserve. But until someone comes up with a better system, it's the best and only one we've got.
The commenter on my blog twisted much of what I said around and insinuated I was defending all five of the officers involved and that I was blaming the victim for being killed and that I must be rich to not understand why all of the poor people failed to evacuate. He continued with a lot of other things, in the end making it seem as if I am the reason New Orleans can't move forward.
So I had to decideif it was worth it to defend my position on my own blog, or take the higher road and ignore him.
Did I need to point out that this guy was mischaracterizing much of what I said, not to mention attempting to stereotype me? I am not rich as he suggested, and, in fact, barely make the cut for middle class in the current economy.
Or do I pretend he didn't just insult my character and do everything but call me an elitist and on my own blog?
Do I delete his undeserved criticism and send him an email? Is that he same thing as flight?
In the end, I decided to set the record straight.
A while back, a young woman posted a horrible review about my novel and said she hated my character so much she couldn't read the whole thing because she was afraid she was going to throw her Kindle across the room because my character annoyed her that much. I was kind of stunned, because naturally the things she hated about my character were based on me, and I was thinking this girl and I will not get along if we ever meet in real life. I was angry at first, and then upset, and then a little depressed. I wanted to respond, but ultimately decided not to. She has the right to her own opinion, even it's about me and even it's bad. It's why America is so great. We can say we hate virtually anything without worrying about getting prosecuted or murdered, in most cases anyway. So let her exercise her 2nd Amendment right and say whatever she wants about my protagonist. Sticks and stones, baby, sticks and stones.
But the comments about my blog were different. While I understand not everyone's tastes are the same when it comes to reading material, and I realize everyone may not agree with me on every point, I refuse to allow someone to turn my writing into some kind of perversion to suit his own needs.
Maybe this guy didn't bother to really read what I wrote and only skimmed the keys words, or maybe he flunked reading comprehension in grade school. Maybe he's having a bad day or just heard some other horrible Katrina story that got his shackles up. Or maybe he's just a jerk who likes to argue for the sake of arguing, even when he's not presenting the facts accurately. We're both in the legal profession, so I could see our heads potentially butting.
Or maybe he's in a bad mood because he knows the Saints are going to beat Chicago in the playoffs and his Illinois butt is taking it out on me.
Regardless, I have no problem with someone expressing an opinion in opposition to mine, whatever the motivation. What I do have a problem with is someone misintepreting and mischaracterizing what I wrote and then attacking me for it.
And that's when I fight.
Causes Holli Castillo Supports
American Diabetes Association, American Breast Cancer Association, Lazarus House New Orleans