Last night on the “Late Show,” David Letterman told a story about finding a strange package in his car at 6:00AM three weeks ago, where someone wanted to produce a screenplay about “the terrible things” he had done in his life and would happily sell him the screenplay for $2 million. After notifying his attorney and the district attorney’s office, the blackmailer was indicted and arrested for grand larceny. Letterman than confessed on television that he had sexual relations with female staffers over the years. This was funny, sad and horrifying at the same time. I’m somewhat familiar with the concept of being blackmailed by those who think they can take advantage of you.
Within the church I used to belong to I had reputation that went from being “a sweet guy” to “a future California serial rapist.” That last remark came from a unpaid ministry leader — an unemployed patent attorney — who encouraged me to rape a woman whom I wasn’t getting along with at the time so I could do everyone a favor by going to prison. When I asked him how the woman would feel about being raped, he said it would be a “small sacrifice on her part for the betterment of the Kingdom.” A few days after that, another unpaid ministry leader — also unemployed — threaten to go public with my emails regarding this situation. These two weren’t the brightest in the ministry, not realizing that encouraging rape by blackmailing someone was wrong according to the Bible.
Unfortunately, church culture can devolve into spiritual entrapment and witch hunts that make this kind of behavior acceptable as the end justify the means. Such a culture makes it difficult — if not impossible — for the paid ministry leaders to do what’s right according to the Bible.
As for the emails, I threatened to post them in full on my website and send out an email to everyone with the link that this this was the ministry leader’s idea. Who has the most to lose with the publication of these emails? Not me. The blackmail attempt was soon forgotten. When other ministry leaders later hinted that they were saving my emails, I again offered to publish all those emails on my website and send out a link to everyone in email. They suddenly backed off by saying that they weren’t trying to blackmail me. Why tell me that you’re saving my emails if you weren’t trying to gain an leverage over me?
When I was working at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple personality disorder), there was an email list called the “chum bucket” for off-color jokes and NSFW web links. I bailed out of this email list after a few weeks when the supervisors called each other and everyone else who disagreed with them “douche bags”. The email list went on for several more years until there was an incident involving me that forced HR rep to shut it down to avoid a potential lawsuit. A co-worker sent anonymous emails to the list that were critical, negative and mean-spirited about me. This wasn’t blackmail but more like slander. When the co-worker stepped forward to apologize and his supervisor talked to me about the situation, I had no clue what they were talking about.
I was a lead tester who worked 60+ hours per week with a project ready to go out the door, attending church and teaching children ministry classes on Sundays, and taking two programming classes at San Jose City College. I was too busy to care about anything else. When I later ran into the co-worker at a bus stop, he thanked me for being the only the lead tester who said anything nice about his girlfriend, a tester whom I thought needed additional training but got let go by the company anyway, and he admitted that he was wrong about my character.
I believe that being a writer means standing behind everything you have written, whether in private or public. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly. After all, if I get famous enough after I kick the bucket, someone will edit and publish a book of selected letters, emails and stupid rants that I had ever written. A generation of tormented college students will write their dissertations on why my neuroses represented early twenty-first century American literature. If someone wants to pass a moral judgment on me after I’m dead, there’s nothing I can do to stop them. If they want to use my writing against me in sinister way while I’m alive, why not let the whole world judge me and my blackmailer?
NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.