Saturday, July 7, 2012

Changing History

[Update/07July: My apologies to those of you who came looking for this post and couldn't find it today. Blogger must have suffered a glitch, or maybe I fucked something up. In any case, it disappeared for a period of time, and I'm not sure how long. I hope it's back to stay now.]

I felt a twinge of a dilemma last week when a commenter on my May 21 blog post, "Oh, for one good sex blog," asked that I remove the post. It's a post about sociopaths in general and the late Susan Crane Bakos in particular. An alleged family member (I do believe she's a family member, but I don't know for sure) wrote to me and to at least one other blogger and asked us to delete our posts because she didn't want her family's younger members to find out about Crane Bakos like her 16-year-old daughter already had. You can read her request and my response in the comments section of that post.

I sympathize with her. Even a whiff of a sociopath as one passes by on a city sidewalk is enough to cause hours of nausea and diarrhea in those of us who recognize their particular evil stench. Who wouldn't want to cut the rot out of their family tree -- at least on the interwebs -- if they could?

I had to decline though. Sympathy aside, I can't see any benefit. I've only pulled a post once -- coincidentally it too was about sociopathy -- and it didn't change anything. The history stayed the same, and the story ended the way it was going to end. I might as well have left the post on my blog, because a significant number of readers related to it and thanked me for writing it. Because it rang true for them, it was healing. Taking it down did nothing.

It's important .... I'd go so far as to say it's part of the healing process for those of us who have been afflicted with a sociopath to share our stories. We need to affirm that these people exist, that they share certain traits, and that they really do make life a living hell for nice, normal people. And it doesn't hurt to warn other people so the sociopath can't take advantage of them too.

 Deleting them from our stories won't make them go away though. The only way to make them go away is to stay the hell away from them. Susan Crane Bakos is (allegedly) dead, so  I guess her family won't have to deal with any more of her craziness. Except in their family history.

That's not the only reason I didn't delete the post though. The other reason is that I didn't like the way the argument was made. If I were analyzing it with one of my classes, we'd be looking at it through the lens of Aristotle's appeals -- ethos, pathos, logos -- and that of argument fallacies as well. As I said in my comment on the post, I don't like feeling manipulated, and this was a terribly manipulative request.

First, I don't like the purely emotional appeal of using the children. A 16-year-old is old enough to understand that Aunt Suzie was a bad person. By her own admission, she was a bad person. Few families get to avoid having at least one rotten piece of fruit dangling from the tree.

She's also old enough to understand that somebody else's behavior has nothing to do with how she should feel about herself. Why would she be embarrassed by what a crazy old woman did? She didn't do it herself.

Better to sit her down and give her the truth, no matter how painful it is. And tell her if she gets near anybody who acts like that to run away and never look back. Sociopaths don't change. They just learn to manipulate their victims better over time.

Second, colleges don't google the thousands of applicants they get every year. Even if they did, they don't give a shit about what an applicant's elderly crazy aunt wrote years ago on her website. I can't think of a worse appeal to make to a college English teacher than this one. I can understand that the family cares; colleges don't and won't. It's a slippery slope argument, and an obvious one at that.

I'm bothered as well that some information about these children is hidden. It appears to be an equivocation, one of those almost-lies that people use to manipulate a situation. The implication is that these poor, suffering children are grandchildren, isn't it? But the commenter doesn't really say what their relationship to Bakos Crane is. What is certain is that the adults in the family are sick of her and her antics, and they want her erased from the blogosphere. Fair enough. Equivocating about the children causes fatal damage to the argument.

Finally, I also have a problem with the ethics of this request. I don't trust someone who asks me to change history. I know too well how painful family secrets can be, and how devastating it is to find out your whole family lied, supposedly to protect you. No fucking thanks. Tell the truth and deal with that shit. Lying about who Susan Bakos Crane was is just as dishonest as what she did. The reason doesn't matter.

Look, I appreciate that Shawn put her name out there and offered to discuss her request. I didn't contact her. If she is who she says she is, I pity her for the hell she must have gone through being related to that woman.

Hell, I feel so sorry for her, I'd give her a guest post right here on this blog if she wanted to tell her side of the story. I'm sure she has one. Sociopaths are rabid users of good people. I have no doubt Aunt Suzie will provide hours of painful retelling of stories around the potluck table about the holidays, weddings and funerals she ruined for everybody else.

But I'm still not willing to help anybody change history. I won't whitewash a sociopath, not even by deleting a post. Once was enough. It just gives them power when we're so embarrassed by their behavior -- or so ashamed they fooled or used us -- that we try to erase the truth and act like they are just normal people. Like us.

They aren't normal. We shouldn't pretend like they're normal by only talking about or remembering the times they were able to fake being caring humans.

This time the post stays.


  1. I've always felt--as the daughter of a sociopath who did damage to an incredible number of people--that there is a cleansing power in telling the truth about it. Get the ugliness out in the light.
    I know that the lies in our
    family, trying to hide the problem,only caused more hurt as time went on. Even now that he's gone, I won't let anyone whitewash who he was. That minimizes the pain of his victims.

    I think you're doing the right thing.

    1. Far better to tell the truth than to live with the terrible, shameful knowledge that something awful did happen, and you can't talk about it because nobody wants to hear it.

  2. I received a bit of criticism for telling my children about the sociopath in our family, but I had already spent a long time protecting her, not telling what I knew, not telling my story because I hoped to keep the peace. It didn't work, and like you said, what was going to happen, happened anyway. Maybe with my telling, it was less of a shock. My husband and I have since decided we are DONE with family secrets. We put it all out there now, even when it makes people uncomfortable in the moment. It's better than the undercurrents that are inevitably present with that kind of secret keeping.

    1. The thing about sociopaths is that they will continue heap abuse on people whether you tell the truth about them or not. They don't care. One way or another, they will make your life hell. Might as well call them out and suffer those consequences, because pandering to them only creates the illusion that you can control the situation. They are going to destroy relationships no matter what you do. The best thing is to build a high wall between you and her and never look over it again.

  3. Families are so complicated, aren't they? Facing the painful truth is the only way to get to the other side. It would be SOO much better for Shawn (and others like her) to just have that big Sit Down Meeting with all the kids. Help them see their family member for who she really was. Help them understand that being related to her by blood does NOT mean they are connected in any way to any of her behavior. But, for pete's sake, she wrote on the internet!! Does Shawn really think she can run around blog after blog to tidy up her aunt's nonsense and the ripple effect that has come from it? What a waste of her time. A couple family sessions with a therapist would be sooo much more helpful for all of them. I don't mean that in an ugly way, I just think it would help them.
    I'm glad you're all opting for truth and not caving to rewrite requests.

    1. I understand wanting to erase the ugliness and not let it spill onto the next generation. I just don't think it's healthy, or even possible. And I also don't think the next generation will care that much. In five years, the kids will barely remember her. It's the adults who will have the awful memories to live with.

  4. I am posting my reply from the other thread here also because I think it needs repeating:

    Of all the sick twisted shit on the internet this is what you are worried about children reading? I see this as a teachable moment for the children involved and an opportunity for the adults to start fostering healing.

    1. True that, Vapor. Kids have to learn to deal with bullies and users. Might as well start in the family.

  5. You might consider granting the request because Susan won't harm anyone anymore and the post is painful for her family. I imagine you want to be as un-Susan-like as possible, right?