“You should blog about this,” is a phrase I read literally every week of my life. I get sent tons of news stories with attached pleas for me to put someone’s political agenda into the words they want to hear. Over my blogging career, I promise you this has happened at least a hundred times. But I have a few rules when I blog:
First, I have a (virtual) sign on my desk that reads, “no pejoratives.” In other words, I never call anyone a name in my writing. I don’t believe in name calling. I haven’t believed in it since I left the elementary school playground. It’s not because I’m some great, saintly person. It’s just because it doesn’t further a narrative. It doesn’t help an argument. It doesn’t convince anyone of anything. All it shows is that you can’t think of anything substantive to say. You can’t make your case. You’re having trouble with facts and figures. So you resort to what I call “the Alamo” of arguing: calling someone an “asshat” (or whatever the flavor-of-the-month name is at the time).
Also, name calling seems to take place in the most punitive and extreme ways, when people dismiss other people as human beings. “This bunch of idiots decided to …” is something you might see on your Face Book feed. A lot. Phrases like that cheapen the conversation and allow one group to so marginalize another group that they don’t have to deal with them as humans anymore. It’s how we widen the gaps between ourselves.
So, for me …NO name calling.
The other rule I have as a blogger is this: If I’ve seen or heard this point of view already, I don’t touch it. I’m not interested in reiterating something you or I have already read. It’s a waste of my time and YOURS. If it has already been said by MSNBC or FOX I won’t be saying it …at least not that way. If there’s a take from a slightly different angle, that’s what I’m looking for. If there are certain words or ideas that haven’t yet been applied to a certain subject, that’s what I’m chasing.
So, if you’ve sent me something to blog about, chances are I probably won’t do it for that reason alone. You’ve already seen it, read it or thought it. There’s nothing original there for me to say. And my whole reason for doing this is to say something original.
The final piece of my approach to blogging is this: I don’t get involved in political or religious sports. Right now, as I type this, some people on our current president’s election team have been indicted for something. The people who hate the president are frothing at the mouth and doing victory laps around the proverbial social network stadium. If, however, indictments get handed out to some on the other side of this equation, next week, the same thing will happen from the opposite side. And on and on it goes.
The “See?!?!?! I was right about you and your side!!!” back and forth is not only rancorous …it’s boring. The truth is we don’t know how this particular series of events is going to play out. But I’ll guarantee you it ends with both sides a little bloodied and embarrassed. Or maybe it doesn’t. Or maybe an event happens that tips the scales in favor of one side or another. Or maybe what one side thought was true is ALL completely false. Or maybe the other side was right. Or maybe no one was right.
Commenting on things in the news you don’t really know about, but support your political point of view, is dicey. You’re counting on PEOPLE to be what you think they are. This is why I’m more interested in ideas than people. It’s why I don’t publicly endorse political candidates I don’t personally know. It’s the same reason I don’t bet on horses. Horses break their legs when you least expect it. The “sure bet” gets distracted at the finish line. The “can’t lose” thoroughbred eats too many oats the night before and stumbles in last. If I don’t bet on noble animals, who are LITERALLY born to run fast, there is NO WAY I’m betting fragile humans, who are born to make mistakes.
You’re going to find out one day that people you thought were noble and well intentioned, did something selfish and crass and downright mean. That’s what humans do. You’re going to be sorely disappointed in someone you put a lot of faith in. You’re going to find out your minister made a pass at your sister or best friend …or both at the same time. You’re going to discover your congressman (or woman) didn’t support a bill you thought was a moral imperative. You’re going to find out your favorite president did something underhanded and mean for no reason. You’re going to find out your mom didn’t really make those cookies from scratch after all …they were from a can.
Yes, my friends, you’re eventually going to find out I, your humble correspondent, am not a saint. And then you’ll one day have to come to the horrible realization that …neither are you. And when you get to the bottom of that well, you find it easier to forgive human weakness. You find it less important to call people names. And you find yourself more interested in ideas and concepts than cults of personality. Because ideas keep us on the road, in between the lines. Ideas keep us focussed past our own humanity into something aspirational. Ideas drive us forward. People let us down.
I’m currently compiling my blog book, for the One Silent Night Kick Starter backers. When I read back over some of these posts, I’m happy to see that I was right about some things. But they were universal truths that were divorced from the personality du jour of the time. That’s where I want to stay. I certainly don’t ever want someone to see a post of mine come up in their feed and say to themselves, in an eye roll, “Okay, here we go. I know what THIS is going to be.”
The day that happens will be the day I stop doing this. I respect your time too much for that.