With All Due Respect

Every email I get that begins, "With all due respect," is followed immediately thereafter by a barrage of seething, hyperbolic vitriol. Usually several paragraphs of it.

One might reasonably argue that my correspondents are being ironic, implicitly commenting that I am due no respect at all by showing me none.

But one then wonders why it is they take the time to hector, lecture, berate, condemn, and attempt to persuade me of my principles with compelling arguments like "Your a fat stupid cunt anyways!"

Hmm. Well. There is a fine line between respect and fear.

What a pitiable existence it must be, quivering at the keyboard and pounding out vicious missives to perfect strangers, scared of the mere knowledge there are people in the world who are different than you and not inclined to accept that those differences make them less than. How sad to be threatened by anyone whom the strategies of the high school bully fail to silence.

Insight isn't the only thing that undiluted privilege doesn't freely give its members; it also robs them of an internal, dignified security that isn't predicated on treating rights as a zero-sum game. Every layer of privilege serves as proxy for the self-assurance hard-won by struggling to be proud despite one's marginalization. Privilege tells its members they need not reflect, or justify, or earn, or question. They needn't even bother themselves with the business of being good, because unexamined privilege assures them they are good, by virtue of their privilege.

But who are they, if that privilege comes undone? Are they good? Are they smart, strong, deserving? They've never had to find out—and thus the insecurity, the desperate lashing out at anyone who threatens, in even the most meager way, to topple the tower of unexamined privilege atop which they stand. Their pride was unearned, and they're left with a cavernous void of self-esteem if that tower crumbles beneath their feet.

They are nothing without their privilege, because their privilege has allowed them to live a life never having to be anything, other than privileged.

So they flail, urgently and frantically, in my inbox, because it's easier to impotently shout at me than to even begin to contemplate the vast fuckery that is having been robbed of the will and need to know themselves, coerced into complacency by the damnable illusion that they have everything already that they will ever need, and need never expect more of themselves.

With all due respect, my friends: You've been hoodwinked.

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