Why Blog Politics?

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.

This is me.

This is me.

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.

Feminist_Morpheus_Quickmeme_by_GeneOThat’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.CSE_Live_06_26_2015

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.

If We Were Having Coffee . . . (Absentee Landlord Edition)

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I almost didn’t write this post. I was tempted to put up a headline that read “No Coffee Post This Week” and share a classic piece of YouTube comedy instead. I came in from work at 3 pm yesterday in a fugue, passed out around 7 pm, and slept through until 4:30 am. I got up needing to load Will’s Doctor Who review at Sourcerer and painfully aware that I haven’t delivered a Feminist Friday post I promised for Part Time Monster this week. I have a week’s worth of unanswered comments on the blogs. I haven’t even had time to tweet since Sunday, and y’all know how I feel about my Twitter. I’m sure there are a few people out there who don’t follow my personal drama and think I’m turning into a bad blogger, lol.

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

I have something to do all day today. Something fun and rejuvenating. Once a year, my Dad and I go to a dove hunt hosted by a business associate of his. We’ve been going since the 90s. It’s a great event for socializing and networking, and it’s family-friendly. When it comes time to actually shoot the birds, I do my best to miss, which is harder than you might think if you’re as good a shot as I am. I’m a notoriously bad shot among the regulars there. I’ve killed maybe 4 birds in 17 years. I just don’t go in for the killing part of it. I never have. But what’s a southern man to do? I’m looking forward to the food, the people, and the sunshine.

So, by the time this posts, I’ll be on the road. I’ll be so far out of touch today, I won’t even see the social media notifications until I return home 10 hours from now because I’ll have to disable the data on my mobile to keep the social media apps from using half a gigabyte of data over the cellular network.

As if all this weren’t enough, the computer I do most of my blogging on — the one I use from the couch, picked up a strange and annoying virus this week. It’s adding spam links to blogs when I load them. It just popped up out of nowhere, and I freaked out when I first saw it because I thought one of my WordPress accounts had been hacked. Turns out it’s just the browser on that one computer that’s infected. It’s only affecting WordPress blogs, and I rarely go anywhere on that computer except WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I’m assuming I picked it up from a blog since it seems to have targeted my WordPress browser extension. So I’m back to blogging only from my home office until I can clean that computer.

I’ve got two or three things I have to do at work tomorrow. I didn’t have the energy to do them on Friday and they can’t wait until Monday, but that will take an hour or two at most. I’ll have most of the afternoon to blog, assuming I can get up at a reasonable hour. Presentation season is almost over (by the time I’m done next week, I’ll have spoken to 1500 students in three weeks), so I’ll have social media time in the evenings and early mornings again soon. You can expect more blogging from me next week, and from there, I’ll slowly pick up momentum until the next rough patch, which will hit me about the middle of November and last until mid-December.

I’m not turning into a bad blogger. I’ve just been insanely busy for the last five weeks. I’ll have that Feminist Friday post sometime tomorrow, I hope.

Have a great weekend, and here’s that classic bit of YouTube comedy I mentioned at the beginning of this post.