Monday, August 14, 2006

My Blog's Third Anniversary Post (Just in Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up)

Yes, it really has been three years as of today. This blog started on what was billed "Fair and Balanced Friday" (a reference to O'Reilly's whinging about the cover of Franken's book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) right after a return trip from Southern California. After being exposed to more Faux News than any human should have to tolerate, I decided I needed a forum to vent. The name of the blog was both a reference to the normal location of my favorite radio stations (indie and college stations) and loosely to a song by The Replacements ("Left of the Dial").

To a large degree this blog has been part of a reawakening process for me that really began in the aftermath of September, 2001. In the months that followed the Twin Towers & Pentagon bombings, I became quickly alarmed by the reactions of many of my fellow Americans. In the process of trying to get a handle on the increasingly jingoistic and militaristic tone of our nation's discourse, it became clear that alternative independent left-leaning voices were both in short supply and desperately needed. Blogging attracted me for the same reason zines and political flyers and leaflets were attractive to me during the 1980s - it appeared as a dirt cheap means of communicating information and ideas with a large number of people. I also saw the blog as a means to working out some thoughts that could then be fleshed out for publication in professional outlets.

This blog was part of a wave of left-leaning political blogs that came on the scene in 2003 & 2004. At the time I started blogging, the A-list bloggers were already established. After three years, I think it's safe to say that I'm a Z-list blogger who kicks it with a number of other cool Z-listers. Wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm a huge fan of trying out things that are new and different, and so I've participated at a number of group and community blogs, participated in a few experiments such as grid blogging, and so on. But this has always been home base. This year's new twist has been to give a few fellow bloggers the keys to the joint, in the hopes that they'd fill in when I'm away from convenient internet access and/or at any time they felt like it to contribute material that might be of interest to my readers. I've been very happy with the trio of blogsitters who have shared some of their work here, and I hope that they'll continue to do so as the spirit moves them.

Some observations over the past three years that I'd like to share with you:
  1. There are a handful of issues at best that seem to unite leftist, liberal, progressive (or whatever label you feel like using) bloggers - the most salient being a general disdain for the Lush/Zany regime's policies, and opposition to the Iraq war. Beyond that, it's pretty obvious that some of us have more in common than others. Some of us, for example, don't care for wars as a general rule, whereas others simply thought that Iraq was a mistake. Some of us are either recovering American exceptionalists (that's my vibe) or never bought into the notion that America was a special well-intentioned giant to begin with, whereas others are still highly invested in the myth of American exceptionalism. Some of us view the Democrat party as the last great hope for salvaging democracy, whereas others of us view the Democrats part of the problem (with some exceptions duly noted) and still others of us might question the conceptualization of our politics as "democratic". To make a long story short, there are plenty of opportunities to mix just as well as oil and water. I don't have any convenient solutions, other than to be willing to form coalitions around pressing issues on at least something of an ad hoc basis, and to be open to working with folks and organizations that on the surface might seem quite different from you - on some issues, such as war, I find a great deal more in common with some libertarians and conservatives than I would have imagined. The key is to realize that we don't have to agree on every last point in order to work together to achieve a particular end result (think of the American Solidarity concept that cernig and I discussed last fall, for example).
  2. On a loosely related note, I've noticed a disturbing trend over the last year toward intolerance on left-leaning/progressive/liberal blogs when it comes to topics regarding militarism and American exceptionalism, as well as race and white privilege. Dare to mention the truly grotesque acts that our government has committed, or features of the American zeitgeist that make it difficult to have a reasonable discussion with many Americans on matters such as the basic objectives and consequences of our government's actions abroad and one will find that presumably "tolerant" liberals begin to pepper their responses with accusations of being "Anti-American" and so on - and any reasonable attempt to discuss such issues on a meta-level only brings more of the same bile. Don't even get me started on the whole issue of Israel's relations with it neighbors, where criticism of Israel is guaranteed to devolve into charges of anti-semitism (usually with not even a cursory understanding of the definition of "semitic").
  3. If I had any unsolicited advice for liberal and progressive bloggers (or for liberals and progressives who do not reside within the confines of blogtopia) it would be simply this: "Don't worry about what the neighbors might think." As a corrollary, I'd add that if you do seem bothered by what the neighbors might think, stop it. I understand the desire to be "liked" by others, and those desiring to reside in the more respectable neighborhoods in blogtopia feel more of a need to behave "responsibly" (i.e., taking great pains to never offend anyone anywhere), but the truth is that if you're going to wade in controversial waters someone's going to splash you in the eyes regardless. Someone (gasp!) will call you names that you don't like. If you have a position, stick to your guns - but be sufficiently flexible to change an opinion if the data warrant (in other words don't just change a position or refrain from voicing an opinion just to get in with the 'in crowd' - it really isn't worth it).
  4. Too often we Americans have made a cottage industry out of being offended by others' beliefs, lifestyles, etc. We really need to lighten up. I say that to readers of this blog from any political persuasion. Life really is too short to be constantly in a state of being offended by something you've seen, read, or heard. I say that as someone who is now easily past the halfway point of my likely lifespan. I wish I had realized that when I was 20 (but am thankful to have finally learned that lesson at all).
  5. My other bit of unsolicited advice is to new bloggers: have fun. If you're not having fun blogging, why bother? If you're blogging in the hope that you will one day be appearing semi-regularly on CNN or MSNBC or to get invited to all the really cool A-list parties, I'd say you have a better chance of being hit by lightning. If you're blogging because you have something to say, and want to see where this particular medium might take you, enjoy.
So it goes. Let's hope this next year in the wonderful world of blogging is as much fun as the last three years. For those of you who are regulars (all three of you) to this blog, thank you.


DuctapeFatwa said...

Congratulations, James! And Happy BlogDay!

There are a few things that I don't have words for, and the calming infusion of hope that your blog has been to me and what that has meant, is one of them.

I don't know if your parents are on earth or in Heaven, but either way, I would like to publicly thank them for their decision to reproduce.

And thank you for starting your blog, and for putting me to shame with the regularity with which you update it. I never know what I will find, but I know it will make me think, and worth mentioning again, give me hope - maybe not the events you report, but in the content of the character of the reporter. :)

About the best spin that can be put on The Situation is that of a species-wide do-over. And a species that can produce someone with your courage and moral character deserves a do-over, and is, in my opinion, sure to do better this next time, with more Jameses and fewer Cheneys and Rumsfelds - even in whatever will take the place of the Occupied tribal lands popularly referred to as the United States.

It is my privilege to share a planet with you, and I hope that the post-Situation planet will allow me to continue to enjoy this privilege.

dove said...

Congratulations James!

I just discovered your blog this year -- I know I don't comment that much there, but I do stop by fairly often and I love it.

May there be many more anniversaries to come.

catnip said...

Congrats James!

Is that Zed-listers or Zee-listers? ;)

dove said...

You say tomato I say tomato . . .

James said...

Zed or Zee it matters not - I'll end up sayin' it with a Texas twang. ;-)

James said...

And of course, thank y'all. :-)

catnip said...

I didn't know you had a southern accent. I like southern accents y'all. :)

James said...

Yep. I never really lost the accent back when my family moved us out to the west coast (the accent sort of toned down a bit during the California years) but it came back with a vengeance once I moved out to Missouri and later to Oklahoma.