Unfriending the Darkness

Francis Bacon: Three Studies of figures on Beds · Portrait of Michel LerisLots of bruised egos and hurt feelings this election cycle. Online friendships have been strained and broken, new alliances forged between unlikely social media partners, and more than one profile suspended altogether due to the rancorous and disheartening discourse of this pivotal campaign season.

Our distrust of the corporate oligarchy’s political machinery and our distrust of our fellow citizens has never been deeper or more apparent. For better or worse, both major parties and their supporters are showing their true colors on social media, and it ranges from less-than-ideal to downright horrific.

Brutal, but I’m okay with that. I’ve never been shy of a wee online dust-up. I’ve been vocal in my support of my candidate.

I’ve tried to be thick-skinned about it; I haven’t unfriended/unfollowed anyone who disagreed with me.

However, I don’t know how many people have unfriended/unfollowed me, and I don’t want to know.

Because I care. I am neither so young nor so foolish as to pretend that I don’t care. There is a word for people truly unconcerned with what others think of them. That word is sociopath. Sociopaths don’t care, in the final analysis, what other people think of them. They only care about the results. The most successful sociopaths are those who learn to manipulate the empathetic responses of their fellow humans.

The successful sociopath uses people successfully.

Which brings me to unfriending the darkness.

A sociopath from my youth resurfaced on social media. In the midst of the back-and-forth of this fractious, frantic political brouhaha, a little bit of darkness stole back into my life via my smartphone.

In half a century, twenty-odd countries and three continents, I’ve met only a handful of people I consider evil. This dude is one of them.

Some acquaintances think I love horror. They associate me with the soulless, cynical, dystopian splatterpunk zombie-fests that have come to dominate the horror market.

Nothing is further from the truth. I write Buddhist morality plays masquerading as paranormal thrillers. I have written elsewhere that I aspire to transform the merely macabre into the sublime (tell me when I get there, cause I might miss it), and I believe in the aspirational power of macabre literature.

It’s always, always been about seeking the light through the darkness, because I’ve seen both. I know evil when I see it.

The sociopath showing up on my smartphone was a reminder of that darkness. I took the opportunity to unfriend/unfollow him and a half-dozen people trapped in his grim and hopeless orbit.

I wish them well, but I’m out of it, and I slept more easily last night than I had in several days.

So if you and I are sparring on social media, I hope you believe me when I say we’re arguing about the best way to get to a better place. I may disagree with you and your thoughtlessness in allowing a narcissistic megalomaniac within a hair’s breadth of the highest office in the land, but I don’t think you’re evil.

I know evil, and you ain’t it.

James Kendley launched his fiction career in 2009. He has published numerous short stories and two novels, The Drowning God and The Devouring God. He has written and edited professionally for more than 30 years, first as a newspaper reporter and editor, then as a copy editor and translator in Japan (where he taught for eight years at private colleges and universities), and currently as a content wrangler in Northern Virginia.

Posted in Personal