Sunday, January 20, 2013

Still irrelevant after all these years

This article from last October talks about the evolution of the liberal blogosphere over the past decade, from its role as rising juggernaut of journalistic scrutiny in the Bush era to its fading relevance now. According to the article, changing administrations, splintering online social channels and general attrition have left the once-budding movement all but irrelevant.

Heh. I could have told you that.

It’s been nearly nine years now since I started this blog, and whatever relevance it ever held is long gone. But I don’t care. Hell, I’m glad.

When I started Not Right About Anything in 2004, I was the liberal columnist for the University of Louisiana Vermilion. Within that community, I was very well known. I even carried a little editorial weight outside of it, as well. I was also pissed — so, so pissed about the excesses of the Bush administration. Pissed about being a liberal in Louisiana, a place where it’s hard enough to be progressive on a good day, let alone in the 9/11 aftermath when seemingly everyone had lost their minds. Pissed about the economy tanking, wars brewing, elections based on bigotry or outright stolen, a powerless feeling in general. First through my newspaper columns, and then through this blog, I connected with hundreds of like-minded individuals. Not only did I feel like I wasn’t alone, but it also felt like something could conceivably be done about it.

In those days, politics preoccupied virtually every moment of my time. I was adamant about my beliefs, and never hesitated to jump into or start a political argument. Not only was I sure I’d win, but I had to win. Because most people who disagreed with me were ignorant or stupid.

But times change. My days as a columnist ended. I graduated, failed to find meaningful employment for more than a year and lost a girlfriend, my truck and even my bike. So much of my self-worth was invested in my work that I grew depressed when it felt like no one cared anymore. And the political climate of the time continued unabated, to the point where I all but stopped following it.

For a while, I considered my aspirations hopeless and took a job working in the warehouse of a department store — where every day I feared, as so often happened, that I’d run into a friend or college professor who’d see that I was failing in life. At least, that was my perception — I finally came to terms with the idea that no one judged me as harshly as I did.

So when I finally got a job in my field in 2007, and fulfilled a longtime goal by living out of state, I felt a lot better. It was as close to a clean break as I ever made, a feeling that eventually worked its way into this blog as well. Even that long ago, I felt like I was no longer an aspiring cog in the gears of change — I was just a guy who did his thing. That was incredibly liberating.

From then on, I simply wrote what was most meaningful to me at any given moment. That was often politics, sure, but it could also be sports or anything else. I also got away from cheap jokes and cheap shots, or letting others’ writings guide my statements as much. Sure, I still make cheap jokes and take shots, but I try to have some substance and sophistication behind them, just like with everything else I do. I’m beholden to no group or agenda besides the truth. I have a lot to say and this is where I say it. It’s audacious and sometimes embarrassing, but it’s honest. I don’t set out to change minds, but I do try to state my case and find common ground. At this point, it’s less of a promotion tool and more like a child — you’ve got to keep feeding and nurturing it, because it’s going to stick with you for years to come.

The biggest change for me personally over the past decade — over the past couple of years, even — is that I’m more humble about myself. I don’t think I was ever arrogant, but I’ve been pretentious. Many people have told me that, and I hate pretentious people, so I decided not to be one anymore. I still get into heated arguments, but I try to avoid some of the unproductive tactics of the past. I also define myself less by unrealistic standards in a world fractured by social media. I’m an imperfect person; I realize that, and am always taking steps toward being better. Now I have all-new ridiculous dreams.

That, more than anything else I set out to do when I started this blog, is what I’ve learned from writing all of these years. I may not have become a rich and world-famous blogger, but I’m still doing it because it’s still a labor of love. And that should always be the point of anything in the first place.

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