When i first started blogging here, I’d sometimes write posts just to clarify my thoughts and see what sort of feedback they’d get. This is one of those. Now that I’ve moved my #WeekendCoffeeShare posts to Sourcerer and the Feminist Friday archive is hosted at Part Time Monster, this blog’s going to need a new tagline and and about page revision. I’m wrapping up the summer run of the Feminist Friday Discussions here this week. Do join us — it will be at least several weeks before we start them up again.
Long-term, I don’t see keeping this blog active, but for the moment, this is the only one I have access to where I can do social commentary any time I feel like it. So I’m not quite done. I’ve done political blogging off-and-on for almost as long as blogs have existed. I’ve not always been good at it, and I’ve had to learn a few lessons the hard way over the years.
I’ve had to learn to moderate my rhetoric and be open to criticism while remaining firm in my position and not allowing myself to be baited by debating tricks — not always easy things to do, especially on the internet. It’s very much a work in progress. I’ve learned to not attack people (also the hard way), and I’ve moved away from advocating for political parties and candidates.
Now, I’ll just be honest. Aside from a handful of local candidates, I haven’t voted for a Republican since, well . . . ever. I’m a liberal by any reasonable standard of American politics, but I don’t consider myself that far to the left. There have been times in the history of the U.S. when I’d have been considered a moderate. But I feel like my own views are defined, as far as the larger culture goes, by measuring their distance from a center which has shifted progressively to the right for most of my lifetime.
I’ve been given all sorts of labels over the years for having views I consider to be common sense. Liberal. Progressive. Leftist. Socialist. Bleeding Heart. Hippie. That was difficult to deal with when I was in my 20s and early 30s. It’s one of the reasons it’s been such a struggle to moderate my rhetoric and learn to write political content that has a chance of appealing to readers. As I’ve gotten older, though, my skin’s gotten thicker. I’ve learned to shrug that stuff off and just say what I need to say.
I think there are signs the center could be shifting back a little in the U.S. The marriage equality ruling, the progress on legalization some of the western states are making, and the President talking about prison reform all bode well for that. I think the way the country is trending demographically also favors this shift.
That said, the culture warriors of the far right aren’t going quietly, and I don’t see anything resembling an actual “left” in this country. Yes, you can find a handful of liberal politicians who hold some extreme views on a few issues. And yes, large segments of the population would prefer more liberal leaders and more liberal public policies. But there’s no “left” equivalent of the Tea Party.
That’s important to note. Even if the more extreme elements of the right were correct on the issues and we could all stomach their vision for the country, not having a coherent group to counterbalance them is bad for everyone. I don’t know what to do about it except keep advocating for my own positions and hope to make enough friends on the internet to find ways of making progress.
I’m in an especially difficult position for a liberal because I live in the Deep South. So I not only have to contend with run-of-the-mill parochial conservatism, there are all the historical social problems, too. I have to deal with various strains of Christianity that I can only describe as 19th-century ways of thinking. Because of the way we’ve been historically divided by race — and at times our elites have intentionally set us against one another — it’s nearly impossible to have a productive conversation about either race or class. There’s plenty of misogyny, much of it unacknowledged, which informs all kinds of conversations about issues that intersect with gender. And conspiracy theories all around.
Despite those difficulties, I’m lucky. I’m a man. I’m tall. Even though I’m not smokin’ hot or anything, it’s fair to call me attractive and I present well. My intelligence is above average. I’ve always been physically healthy because I grew up middle class in a home with two parents who took care of their children, so I had good nutrition and the best medical care an insurance company could afford until I was in my mid-20s. I’ve got an undergraduate degree I didn’t have to pay for myself, which allowed me to get a graduate degree later without being absolutely crushed by the debt.
If I’d been born into real wealth and didn’t have the anxiety, depression, and insomnia to deal with, I’d basically have ALL the privilege, except a high-ranking government job. I wasn’t born into real wealth, though. My entire adult life has been a struggle to maintain my financial independence and to keep myself and my family afloat. I came out of a middle class family with no idea how much money it was requiring to maintain that standard of living. I chose my college major because I thought I wanted to be a poet or fiction writer or a professor, and I was encouraged to pick something I liked, rather than something that paid. Started out in local journalism (which pays terribly) because I knew I didn’t want to teach school.
Yet still, despite my modest means, I’m privileged. I’ve never been hungry unless I chose to be. Never had to sleep on the street. And when I look at how 85 percent of the rest of the world lives, it seems like I have it pretty good. “Get to the point, Gene’O,” you say.
My point is this. Yes, I’m privileged. But I’ve lived close enough to edge to wonder if I was going to end up either homeless and hungry, or completely dependent on relatives. I’ve seen enough real, on-the-ground, racism, poverty, and sexism, to last a couple of lifetimes. And enough outright meanness cloaked in conservative and Christian ideology to last a dozen. So I have to figure out this social criticism thing.
I support adequate social services because I don’t believe people should go hungry for lack of money, and I’m not content to leave that entirely to charities. I support Planned Parenthood not because of my pro-choice and feminist views, but because women who don’t have the money or adequate insurance to afford them still need pap smears and cancer screenings. I support penal reform because I believe we’re locking too many people up, and the application of our laws is falling disproportionately on minorities and economically-disadvantaged people.
I’ve got to find a way to cut through the noise and start talking about that stuff openly and productively. Got to learn to put things in terms people can understand. And most importantly, I’ve got to find a better place to do all that than this tiny WordPress blog.
Thanks for reading, and do stay tuned.