Thursday, July 27, 2006

Increasingly I Don't Know What to Say: The Exciting Conclusion

Let's see, where was I? Oh, right:

Several months ago I read on a friend's blog something like the following: "I'm so sick of writing about politics, but I can't stop reading political blogs." I wondered if that statement came from roughly the same place it would have come from had I made it myself. I still don't know whether it did or it didn't, whether there were other issues not divulged in that post, whether it was a temporary ennui or something more significant.

Here's what I know for me, though: I don't really want to write about anything but politics. I never have had. For one thing, I'm not that interesting a person; I can't work the personal-blog angle. You have to be willing to put yourself out there to do personal blogging effectively. The more risks you take, the more you share, the more you give people to identify with and the greater rapport and popularity you build. I can't do this. I'm a very private person by nature, and I've already had the bitter experience once of having a so-called friend counter an argument I was making by throwing it in my face that I'd been to reform school.

Never again. So the personal blogging is not for me.

I am not sure anymore whether political blogging is a good fit either, though. I don't fit well with either party; I'm not at home with either right or left for long. I doubt that I ever will be. I have this massively conceited belief, for one thing, that the mushy middles are vital to the success and stability of a democracy. The fickle are the sand in the gears of potential totalitarianism, provided the fickle get to vote. That's why both right and left package their most extreme positions in "reasonable"-sounding messages. And yes, both sides do it, but lately the right has had the most success with the formula.

"It's time to roll back the gains of the women's movement" becomes "Aren't you concerned about boys falling behind academically? Don't you think that's an issue it's important to at least talk about?"

Geez, whoever could be against talking?

"We need to sweep through the Middle East and remake it in our image" becomes "Don't you care about the Iraqi people suffering under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein? Aren't you worried about Iran's nuclear capability?"

My gosh, do you want us all to blow up?

You get the idea. You've probably got other examples of your own.

As a political blogger, then, I am likely to please no one for long. I could deal with that, maybe, if I were stronger, thicker-skinned, took things less personally. I'm not, though. And it doesn't help me that the bloggers who appear to me to be the most centrist have, for the most part, all gone out of business. I don't have anyone to go to for backup. I can't sic a team of bloggers on some other team of bloggers if I get into a pissing match with anybody--not that I'd want to, you understand, but knowing that the solidly-left and the solidly-right each possess that option is intimidating.

I didn't want this to turn into a poor-pitiful-me thing, though. That's another thing I notice: Someone tries to walk the middle, that someone gets a heaping ration of shit from whichever side he's pissed off the most, if not both sides, and then, this is the best part of it all, THEN Mr. Middle gets told he's feeling sorry for himself and throwing a pity party for complaining about it. It's a no-win. The message is, you in the middle there, pick a side of the fence awreddy, or just SHUT UP.

Sometime between 1999-2002 I started moving rightward politically. I am not sure what did it, exactly. Let's just say I found the 90s a little irritating and leave it at that. It's beside the point anyway, because I want to talk about what that's like, to move rightward.

Here is what happens when you encounter a group of righties online and tell them you're having second thoughts about some of your liberal ideas: You get the fucking welcome wagon. It rolls right up to your door and a bunch of surprisingly suave wingnuts pop out the back and they shower you with approval and reinforcement.

"You know, heh heh heh," you say nervously, "I still don't agree with you about the gay marriage thing."

"Perfectly okay!" they chorus. "Schwarzenegger! Guiliani! You're in good company! It's a big tent! Plenty of room for a little healthy disagreement among friends! It keeps us honest!"

"And, uh, I'm pro-choice. Pretty strongly, actually."

"Not a problem at all!" they shout. "Why, there are plenty of pro-choice Republicans! Schwarzenegger! Guiliani! Uh, do we still count Specter? Ooh, maybe not him. But it's a big tent! Really!"

"Not too sure about the religious right's involvement--"

"Why, hell, we've got atheists on board, child! And some of our evangelical members are actually very moderate. They just want to be free to practice their faith is all! Surely you're against religious discrimination? We sure are! We like a big tent 'round here!"

Then, when you try to stand up for the very principles you claimed from the outset, some closeted, acne-backed Dungeons & Dragons motherfucker boots you out of that big tent so fast you can't even believe it. That's when you realize you've been Charlie Brown with the football and Lucy just owned you. Then some lefty stands over your prostate form and chides you for ever having been that stupid in the first place.

Seriously, this is what happens. Test it yourself: Hit up a proxy server, visit a right-wing blog, and tell them you're a lefty who's been having second thoughts about a few things. Then all you have to do is sit back and FEEL THE LOVE.

Here's what I see happen when someone moves left: Basically the opposite. Lefty bloggers seem to want everyone who defects from the right to do heavy penance first. Then again, the only political bloggers I've really seen move left have been John Cole and Andrew Sullivan, and I don't like either of them myself. Maybe they deserve to do heavy penance. Maybe everyone who voted for Chimpy McHitlerburton does. I'm just not convinced it's an effective way to swell the ranks. The welcome wagon works better. It worked on me, but we shouldn't rule out that I might just be extremely fucking gullible. I did spend my formative years in the Mormon church. And let's not forget reform school! That doesn't speak well of my mental acuity at all, does it?

Anyway, while the welcome wagon usually winds up being 100% USDA Prime Bullshit, it is nonetheless extremely effective bullshit. Flattery gets you everywhere with people. That's been true since time immemorial.

I just realized that nothing I wrote up there is going to dissuade anyone from posting a scathing, "Oh, so not ONLY did you fuck up and vote for Bush and not ONLY do you want to be forgiven for that, but to top it all off, you want us to roll out the red carpet for your dumb ass? I DON'T THINK SO, WINGNUT."

That's where I'm at, anyway: I feel pretty down, pretty hopeless, and very intimidated. It is impossible for me to criticize the right from within it, and it is not possible for me to feel wholly comfortable on the left, and best of all, it's finally dawned on me after all this time online that no one really wants to hear my shit anyway. It only took 3 years of basically no traffic whatsoever for me to figure this out. I'm so fucking proud I could spit.

Y'all have fun.