Let Your Freak Flag Fly

My youngest brother lives and works abroad.  It’s cool for him because he gets to travel all over the world, and he’ll often call me from different countries to let me know what’s going on in his life.  It’s fun for him because it gives him someone to share his adventures with, but it’s also fun for me because . . . well, I love messing with his head.

You see, my brother is more than a little bit paranoid, and for whatever reason, he believes that while he’s jet setting across the globe, his cell phone calls are most likely monitored.  If not by the CIA, then probably some foreign entity who wants to keep track of him to make sure he’s not some sort of super spy.  (Trust me, he’s not.  I love my brother, but he’s got nothing on James Bond.)

He loves it when I bring up the Dali Lama, while he’s traveling in China.  He enjoys it almost as much as when I chant, “What do we want? Oppression!  When do we want it?  Now!”  I can tell I’m helping because he rarely calls from China anymore.

Now everything I just wrote . . . absolute gospel truth.  And yes, I know I’m a bit of a dick to my brother, but honestly, it’s the only way I know how to interact with the world, so at this point, I just go with it.  But when I think about these interactions, I’m sometimes surprised to find a shred of sentiment at their base.  For whatever reason, when my brother starts to get nutty about whether or not someone’s listening in on his phone conversations, it flips this little switch inside my head that makes me want to give a big middle finger to anyone who has an opinion about what I can or cannot say.

I am a believer in the “marketplace of ideas.”  You should be free to express and believe whatever ideas you so choose, but you should also have the freedom to partake of the ideas of others.  Now I’m not naïve enough to think that every idea in the marketplace will be a great one.  Just cruise around the internet for about five minutes, and you’ll see there’s a whole lot of chaff out there mixed in with the wheat.  But the point is the ideas, the philosophies, the beliefs, they’re all out there for you to find and judge as you see fit.

When it comes to your own writing, the only thing that should shape your message is your own beliefs.  Sophisticated or not, ugly or not, those beliefs are you, and they inform your view of the world.  And that view, that personality, that voice, is what you have to offer the world, so you need to get on with the business of figuring out who you are.

A word of caution here: while I am urging you to be yourself and let your multicolored freak flag fly, please understand that this freedom of expression is a two-way street.  Some thoughts and ideas you’ll want to share with the world will not be all that popular, and that’s something you’ll have to learn to deal with.  Being willing to broadcast your message to the world also means you accept that sometimes people will think you’re a tool or an asshole or even a low-grade sociopath, and they have every right to say it.

The only gatekeeper in the world today should be you, but choose your words wisely.  Understand yourself, understand your message, and understand the ramifications of what it is you’re trying to say.  If you’re at peace with all those things, then lock and load my friend.  Praise and scorn are just around the corner, and they can’t wait to roll your ass.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

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